After a magnificent spring filled with all things French, it seemed only right to start the summer off with a delicious pan of perfectly roasted ratatouille. Apparently, not everything I know about France comes from Beauty and the Beast, I have also obviously watched the escapades of everyone’s favorite rat chef. I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what ratatouille was until I watched the film, but now that I’ve tried it, I am 100% on board. In fact, ratatouille is one of my favorite summertime dishes.
The secret (that’s right, I barely knew about ratatouille a few years ago, but now I am an expert and feel more than qualified to dole out my ‘secrets’) is to cook the vegetables separately instead of just torturing them in the pan. When cooked separately and then combined for just 15-20 minutes in the oven, each vegetable retains some of its original texture, but the flavors still meld together perfectly. I love my ratatouille with a side of crusty French bread and a little extra olive oil for dipping.
I modified this recipe from one I found on Bon Appetit’s website. It might be that I have spent far too long living with a Macedonian, but the red pepper to other veggie ratio just seemed off to me in the original recipe, so I added an extra pepper. I also added just less than half a cup of red wine to deglaze the pan, which helped to incorporate all the yummy caramelized bits in with the rest of the vegetables. Plus, tomatoes contain some flavor compounds that are only soluble in alcohol, so the wine also added a certain depth of flavor to the dish.
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 large zucchini
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 large onion
- 2 red bell peppers
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes
- scant 1/2 cup red wine
- 5 sprigs thyme
- 1 cup fresh basil
- olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lets talk veggies! When I make ratatouille, I like to cut everything into equally sized pieces. Not too small, but small enough that you can fit more than one vegetable on your spoon. Start by peeling the eggplant and cutting it into bite sized cubes. (You can also skip the peeling step, as I often do.) Slice the zucchini in half, lengthwise and then chop into half circles about 1/3 inch thick.
- Combine the eggplant and zucchini in a large strainer, toss with two teaspoons salt and set aside.
- Slice the onions, and chop the peppers into pieces roughly the same size as the cubes of eggplant, set aside. Finely chop the garlic, set aside.
- Heat a dutch oven or a cast iron braiser over medium heat. Drizzle with olive oil until the bottom of the pan is covered–don’t be shy here. When the oil starts to glisten, carefully add 1/2 of the eggplant zucchini mixture. Quickly stir to coat the veggies with oil, turn the heat to medium low and cook the veggies for 5-7 minutes, until they start to become brown on the edges. It’s best not to stir them too much, or the eggplant will start to stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the eggplant has browned, transfer the mixture to a bowl and repeat the process with the remaining eggplant and zucchini. Transfer to the bowl with the cooked eggplant.
- Drizzle a little more oil into the pan, add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and 1/2 of the cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the tomatoes start to break apart and the onions start to brown on the edges.
- Add wine and stir to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Cook for about two minutes.
- Remove from heat. Add the eggplant mixture back into the pan and stir. Sprinkle liberally with freshly ground pepper and a little salt. Place the remaining cherry tomatoes on top of the pan, but don’t stir them in. Place the sprigs of thyme on top of the mixture (Don’t stir them in.)
- Transfer the mixture to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, remove sprigs of time. Garnish with fresh basil, and serve with crusty french bread.