Ratatouille is a rustic French dish that captures the best flavors of summer and distills them down in a richly flavored stew. It is the perfect recipe to make at the end of summer when you are harvesting everything at once from the garden.
The recipe I love best is from the Gourmet cookbook and a version of it can be found on the Epicurious site. This recipe is great because you cook each vegetable on it’s own, allowing them to lock in their individual flavors.
Once that initial phase of cooking each veggie on its own, everything simmers together for an hour so the flavors can develop. The finished product is a richly flavored vegetable stew so delicious that you’ll be weak in the knees.
I modified the recipe a bit, as I always seem to do, based on what I had on hand. The beauty of this recipe is that if you don’t have enough of one thing, add a bit more of another – it doesn’t have to be rigidly followed. When chopping the veggies, try to keep them all a similar size – around 1 inch. Here are the main components:
- 4-6 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I used big Brandywines)
- olive oil
- 1 cup fresh fresh basil
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- 10 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 2-3 lbs eggplant, chopped (I used 5 small ones)
- 2 yellow onions, sliced
- 2-3 lbs summer squash, chopped (I used one huge pitty pan)
- 2-3 bell peppers, chopped (I used an assortment of green & red)
- Begin by peeling the tomatoes. Dip them in almost boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge into cold water to stop them from cooking. You should be able to peel them easily. If not, throw them back in the hot water for a bit longer. Once peeled, roughly chop them up.
- In a stockpot, add tomatoes, garlic, basil, parsley and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Simmer while you work on the rest of the recipe.
- Toss eggplant with about 1 T. salt and let it sit in a colander in the sink to drain excess water.
- In a large skillet, add 1 T. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and onion. Cook for 10 minutes. Set aside.
- In the same large skillet, add another 1 T. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and bell peppers. Cook for 10 minutes. Set aside with onions.
- Again, add another 1 T. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and summer squash. Zucchini, yellow crookneck, or pitty pan all work well. Cook for 10 minutes. Set aside with onions and peppers.
- Once again, add another 1 T. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and eggplant. Cook for 10 minutes until it begins to caramelize.
- Add cooked onions, peppers, squash and eggplant to the simmering tomato mixture. Give it a good stir to incorporate, cover and let it simmer for an hour.
- Thickly slice some crusty bread like a French Batard. Ladle up a big bowl of stew and get ready for your mind to be blown.
Keep this recipe handy for the wintertime too! Chop, blanch and freeze excess garden veggies like bell peppers, summer squash and eggplant. Pop open a quart of simply canned tomatoes and you’ll be on your way to ratatouille even outside of the summer season. We were licking our bowls clean!