Ratatouille

Ratatouille

By: Betsy Peirce, Produce Manager

One of my favorite dishes to prepare once all the bounty of the season starts piling up is Ratatouille. The history of the recipe for Ratatouille is said to be from France originally, though the ingredients and style of preparation has some historians wondering if it actually originated from the Basque region of Spain. The modern recipe for Ratatouille originated in the Nice and Provencal regions of France. Its official French name is Ratatouille Niçoise. The traditional recipe calls for tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onions. According to the Provencal tradition, herbs de Provence were the only official blend of spices that could be used as they were traditionally grown in the region. These included: rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme, serpolet (wild Thyme), savory and sometimes lavender. It is said that Provencal Chefs would scorn any who dared call their dish Ratatouille Niçoise if it was prepared with herbs other than these.

Traditionally Ratatouille was considered peasant food owing to its preparation style of “rough cut” vegetables and the economy of a dish that could be eaten with cheap rice, pasta or dipped into with chunks of bread. In recent times it has become a dish prepared by top chefs and served in the finest restaurants. There are many styles of preparation as well and a plentitude of opinions about the “correct” way to slice the vegetables, combine the vegetables, and cook the vegetables. For such a simple dish it has become a heated topic amongst experts in cooking.

It can be ever so simple to prepare if you are someone who has a lot of ripe garden veggies and you need to feed your family a healthy quick meal. As mentioned above – the veggies can simply be “rough cut” and tossed in with some olive oil and herbs all together to create a tomato stew to serve along with a starchy something. If you enjoy cooking and have some extra time to experiment, some chefs (Julia Child was one) believe that the dish should be prepared by layering the thinly sliced vegetables (zucchini and Eggplant cooked separately thereby allowing each of the vegetables’ flavors to stand on their own) and then preparing the sauce of tomatoes, onions garlic and bell peppers. The vegetables are layered in a casserole dish, the sauce us poured over the top and the whole thing is roasted in the oven.

However you chose to prepare Ratatouille, just be sure to use up your local veggies in the process. We will have most of the ingredients from local vendors should you chose to embark on this adventure. Across are some recipes from the PCC Sound Consumer Newsletter. They had some fabulous variations on the traditional French flavors. I myself am eager to try them.

Pisto Manchego (Spanish Ratatouille)

Serves: 4

Spain’s version of ratatouille often is served with a

fried egg and a slice of fresh, crusty bread.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small eggplant, diced

2 summer squash, diced

2 green bell peppers, diced

1/2 cup white wine

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled and chopped

3 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano

2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 eggs, fried

1/4 cup grated Manchego cheese

Preparation:

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in eggplant, squash and peppers; cook for 5 minutes. Pour in wine and simmer, stirring occasionally, until wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add tomatoes. Simmer gently until juices have thickened and vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in oregano and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowls, top with a fried egg and sprinkle with Manchego cheese.

Curried Ratatouille

Serves: 4 to 6

Serve this Indian-inspired dish with warm naan or over basmati rice.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons high-heat oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, grated

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (optional)

1 red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 zucchini or summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preparation:

Heat oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the mustard and cumin seeds, frying the spices until they begin to pop, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeño, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in onion and cook until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with turmeric and coriander. Mix in eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, stirring to combine. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover and cook until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes to thicken juices; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving.

Miso Ratatouille

Serves: 4 to 6

Miso and mushrooms add a depth of flavor to this

Japanese-style dish.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons mirin

3 tablespoons red or brown miso

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (2-inch) piece lemongrass, smashed

2 medium Japanese eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 pound mixed mushrooms (shiitake, crimini, porcini,

etc.), chopped

4 tomatoes, chopped

Preparation:

Mix together mirin, miso and soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over mediumhigh heat. Cook onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, lemongrass, eggplant, peppers and zucchini and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and miso mixture; mix well. Cover and cook 20 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Remove lid and cook an additional 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Roasted Ratatouille with Black Olives

Serves: 4 to 6

Summer vegetables are roasted in the oven to bring out their natural sweetness. Feel free to add any vegetables from the garden (such as zucchini or squash). Serve over polenta, pasta or with a slice of crusty bread.

Ingredients:

4 tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 large eggplant, peeled and cut

into 1-inch cubes

1 each red, yellow and green bell

pepper, seeded and cut into strips

1/2 onion, thickly sliced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus additional for garnishing

1/2 cup pitted black olives

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Place two rimmed baking sheets in the oven for 4 minutes to heat. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and onions with olive oil and garlic in a large bowl. Very carefully spread the vegetables on the hot baking sheets. Roast, shaking the pan once or twice to turn vegetables, until tender and golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Toss roasted vegetables with balsamic vinegar, basil and olives. Serve warm with sprigs of fresh basil.