Saturday, January 26, 2013

Ratatouille - The French do Vegetarian Right

I made something today that I haven't made or eaten in years.  Although it seems like something that it's spectacular and unusual I never think to make it because making it right does take a bit of time and effort and lot's of chopping.

What is it? .... RATATOUILLE.   The French Version of Vegetable Stew.


ra·ta·touille  

/ˌratəˈto͞o-ē/
Noun
A vegetable dish consisting of onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, fried and stewed in oil.

Ratatouille,  photo by Linda Matarasso
Ratatouille is a great way to make a One Pot Meal in the Winter that has all the warm and flavour of your favourite comfort food without any guilt.

My mother used to make it once in a while but I think my spice expertise kicked it up just a bit from the way she used to make it.  I like it spicy and full of flavour so it doesn't taste like you are eating boring vegetables.   My mom's recipe was good but I think mine might be better.

My version is probably pretty classic but I added chili flakes which might not be as traditional.

Here's my recipe:

Ratatouille

1 Eggplant cut into cubes
2 zucchini's quartered and cut into chunks
3 small onions roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper seeded and chopped into chunks
1 green pepper seeded and chopped into chunks
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
1 tsp honey

Directions:

Cut the eggplant and zucchini and set into a collander and sprinkle with salt to release some of the water and bitterness.  Let sit for a half an hour.  Rinse if you have added a lot of salt. Prep all of the ingredients  and set aside for your mis en place (everything in place) and get a dutch oven heating on the stove top.    Add the olive oil to the pot and then add the chopped onions and then the chopped garlic.  Mix and cook until the onions have softened.  You could cook the onions low and slow to caramelize them but they will continue to cook with the rest of the ingredients so it's up to you.  I didn't.    Once the onions are translucent add the chopped tomatoes and add a bit of water if there isn't much water in the can of tomatoes.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and add the thyme, basil, parsley, chili flakes, paprika and honey.  Continue to cook until the tomatoes have cooked down a bit.  Roughly about 15-20 min.  Then add the peppers.  Let cook another 15 minutes.   Add the drained zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes.   For added flavour I sauteed the eggplant chunks in a frying pan with a little bit of oil and salt and pepper just to get a little bit of caramelization on the eggplants to develop the sugars in the eggplant.   Just sautee for a couple of minutes until you see it turn a little golden.   Add the eggplants into the rest of the mixture in the Dutch Oven.

You can continue to cook the Ratatouille on the stove top and mix occasionally.  It should take another 30 minutes or until everything is softened and the flavours have developed.

You can also cook the Ratatouille in the Oven at 350 degrees with the lid on and cook for about 25-35 minutes.  Check it after about 15 minutes as every oven is different and it will depend on how condensed you like it.

This is what it looks like when cooked on the stove top.


This is a perfect dish to make on a sunday morning and have it for a long slow sunday lunch or dinner and have the leftovers for a Meatless Monday the next day.

It's a great dish for the reluctant vegetarian or the Parisienne wannabe.   Either way it's a win win dish for a cold winter day.

Even meat eaters might like this one because the eggplant adds a great meatiness to the stew.


You could probably also do this in a crock pot but it might take a bit of experimenting to get it right.

This dish brings me back to when i was a kid and my mom had loads of vegetables in the fridge and she would make this so that she could just chop it all up and let it cook away on the stove while she watched an old hollywood movie on tv.

So make up a big pot of Ratatouille and get out your Old Hollywood or New Hollywood Movie and grab a big bowl and a piece of crusty bread and sit back and enjoy.

Even better... get a French Foreign Film to watch while make it or while eating it if you are alone.  You will feel all warm and cozy and it will be comfort food for the soul kind of lunch or dinner.

Enjoy.

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