I am sure you have heard of this traditional dish from Provence at least once. You might have found it on the menu of a French restaurant here in the Bay Area, tried it during a trip to South East France, or just seen it on screen – even prepared by a mouse!
Ratatouille comes from Nice -the full name of the dish is “Ratatouille Niçoise”. It is an Occitan dish and is traditionally prepared with eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. The vegetables are combined either at the end or the beginning of the recipe as its name lets us predict – tatouiller in old French means toss together. Now, there is still a debate as to which vegetables are included in the traditional recipe and how to combine them. Some add bell pepper, some others are even more daring with carrots or even mushrooms. Some dice the vegetables, others cut them in thin slices. As for the cooking process, there is still a fiery debate between advocates of separate cooking of each vegetable then mixing and those who like cooking all the vegetables at once. Even the cooking method (pan frying, baking etc.) is left to individual interpretation.
My personal preference goes to simplicity. In all the different versions we favor at Baumé, I limit the number of ingredients to the most traditional ones and play with cooking techniques. In the one seen below, I only use tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants, and I complement the charbroiled baby vegetables with a candied tomatoes sauce.
At home, using a flameproof casserole, you can pan fry (separately) coarsely chopped onions, eggplants, zucchinis then toss them together with herbs and add peeled tomatoes as in the recipe below :
1 large yellow onion
3 mediumItalian eggplants
4 medium green zucchinis
2 medium yellow zucchini squash
2 bell peppers
6 medium sized tomatoes (peeled)
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley
4 sprigs of fresh thyme,
4 garlic cloves (chopped)
4 bay leaves
olive oil, salt pepper.
1. Slice the onion,
2. Chop the rest of the vegetables into 1/2 inch dice.
3. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a flameproof casserole over medium heat and start with frying the onions with the garlic. Stir them for about 5 minutes then remove them from the casserole and reserve.
4. Repeat the same process with the eggplants, the zucchinis and the bell pepper.
5. Toss all the vegetables together, then add the tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, salt pepper and let them simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.
This recipe can be reheated a few times, it gets better and better each time. Enjoy!