I was craving vegetables. It was a rainy summer day during my visit home to see my family in Saskatchewan. After being pummeled by rain and cleaning up puddled basements, I wanted to be in the kitchen, to cook and soothe souls. So I ended up in the grocery store.
I love shopping for groceries. We all need to eat, and I rarely feel guilty spending money at the grocery store. It is always justified in my head. A tasty tomato is worth the price. (At least that’s how I think.)
While wandering the aisles, I waited for inspiration. I saw the eggplant first. Though I’m not a fan of this bitter vegetable, I love its purple suit and wondered if I tried it one more time if I might become a fan. So I googled: "best ratatouille recipe" on my phone in the middle of the produce aisle.
Ratatouille dates back to the 1800s and the region of Nice, France. [It requires that special French accent to pronounce (ra-tuh-TOO-ee). Just ask your daughters who are in French Immersion to pronounce it!]
The word Ratatouille actually comes from the French term "touiller," which means to toss food.
Back home, I prepared all the vegetables. A sharp knife is always good for this task, and thankfully, my parents had their knives sharpened before my visit. And then all that was left to do was sauté the ingredients separately (as the French like to do) and then together to build flavor. You must let each vegetable have its limelight. That's the French way. And it's the key to a non-mushy ratatouille.
The result: no mush but a collection of cooked but chunky summer vegetables. This is a keeper recipe of fresh summer vegetables bathed in tomato sauce. I served it over pasta (because my kids love pasta!), but it’s good over couscous, rice or on its own.
Thanks, Marc! Click here for Marc's recipe.
Here is my rendition:
Rainy-Day, Comforting (Best) Ratatouille
1/4 c olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
6 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped 1-2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 packed cup parsley, roughly chopped
6-8 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and saute the for 1 to 2 mnutes.
Reduce the heat to low and add the onion and red bell pepper and saute for 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, cover and simmer until the tomatoes are soft the consistency of the mixture is not runny, but more stew-like.
Add the eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and then cover with a lid and cook until tender (about 30 to 40 minutes), stirring occasionally.
When the vegetables are soft, remove the lid, add the tomato paste and let the ratatouille continue to simmer until the excess liquid has evaporated and the stew is thick. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and serve.
If you haven’t seen Ratatouille, the movie, then add it to your list.
"Anyone can cook, but only the fearless can be great." – Chef Auguste Gusteau - in Ratatouille, the movie