Ratatouille has so many things going for it, it’s no wonder that nearly everybody has a favorite recipe for it. Oh, you don’t, Gentle Reader? Well! You’ve come to the right place today, then! This traditional French Provencal vegetable dish is deliciously versatile and can be eaten as a stew, a pizza topping, a pasta topping, or an accompaniment with steamed fish or chicken. It can be eaten cold out of its plastic leftover container, standing in the warm light of the open ‘fridge door. It can be toted to work with some leftover steamed rice and heated up in the office microwave and eaten in front of drooling co-workers. It can be shmeared on a cracker and eaten sitting in the yard. When I say versatile, I mean versatile. Did I mention that it is easy to pull together with the simplest kitchen tasks–chopping, sauteing, tasting, and stewing. An infant could make it. Almost.
I know you’re thinking about the movie. So am I. When I kept talking about ratatouille yesterday, this is where the conversation invariably went.
Me: (announcing to the kids) “I’m going out to the hoop house to pick eggplants and zucchinis for the ratatouille that I’m going to make tonight . . .”
Amalia: “Ratatouille! I love that movie; we should watch it again sometime!”
Mack: “I’ll help you. If I can drive the tractor. Can I drive the tractor? And what’s rata-whatee?”
Me: “Amalia, want to help me chop veg for the ratatouille?”
Amalia: “Ratatouille! I love that movie; can we watch it sometime soon?”
Mack: “I’ll help. If I can use the biggest, sharpest knife. Can I, Mom? What’s rata-whatsit?”
Me: “So how do you guys like the ratatouille?”
Amalia: “Ratatouille! I just love that movie, let’s find it and watch it this weekend!”
Mack: “I’m full. I’m not hungry. What–is–rata–what??”
So the movie is probably better-known in our home than the dish, this much is painfully obvious. However–I have awesome ratatouille-inspired news, anyway–nearly everything that goes into this fabulous dish is available in the o’er burdened fall garden, or at your farmer’s market, where your local farmers perhaps have just another week or two to unload all these glorious veg. Check out this delicious lineup: eggplant (aubergine, as the Brits and the French call them), zucchini (or courgette. . ), onions and garlic, tomatoes–let’s see, what else–carrots, sweet peppers, herbs, and so forth. I even will toss in a lemon squash or two, for a bit of color.
So for no reason at all, I will subname this dish the Queen of the Fall Garden Melange! When you’ve got buckets and baskets and boxes of recently-saved-but just-barely-from-the-hard-freeze last night, and wondering just how long they’ll last (not as long as you might hope) and you’ve still got a bit of room in your freezer (just a bit) this is what you should make. Really. It’s delicious for dinner, and then you can sock away the leftovers in the freezer for winter meals, so let’s do it, okay?
- 6 Tb olive oil
- 6-8 garlic cloves, smashed and diced
- 6 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 6 carrots, chopped
- 8 bell peppers, mix or colors, natch'
- 4 lbs eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 medium zucchinis, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 medium summer squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- ½ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
- Salt and pepper, freshly ground, to taste
- Heat 2 Tb olive oil in large saucepan, add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so.
- Add tomatoes, bring to a boil and lower heat, simmer until sauce thickens, 15 min+.
- In a large pot, heat remaining 4 Tb oil over medium heat. Add onions and carrots. Saute until onions are translucent, about 5 min. Add peppers and eggplant and continue sauteeing until eggplant begins to soften. Add zukes and squash and cook just until they are barely soft. Add tomatoes, herbs and cook for another 5 min to combine the flavors nicely. Taste and add salt and pepper judiciously. Serve with rice, pasta, steamed chicken or fish, grated parmesan cheese or what-have-you. Just serve!
Sound good? That’s because it IS good. Actually, great. Now make some up for your family, rent the movie, and enjoy both concurrently.
Bon appetit, mes cheris!
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