Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Ratatouille is the perfect celebration of summer flavors. It gently crosses the line between summer and fall; it uses late summer veggies, but is cooked down much like the hearty fall and winter stews we know lie ahead. Sure, summer produce is magnificent fresh from the farmstand. But the flavors of summer vegetables change in wonderful ways if you cook them a while. They intensify and blend in glorious ways as if truly made for each other.
Traditional recipes call for each vegetable to be cooked individually (although I am very skeptical as to whether or not the first French peasant woman to make ratatouille did this -- I have a feeling she just threw whatever was leftover from harvest in a pot and let the vegetables do their thing). This recipe is much simpler in method and tastes delicious. I closely followed a recipe from Mark Bittman, although I did make some minor changes (cooking the zucchini and onions longer, adding more tomatoes, and tossing in fresh basil and parsley to the ratatouille as well), but kept Bittman's simple technique the same. Served atop a pool of creamy polenta, it's warm and filling like fall stews but filled with summer flavors. It's a perfect dinner to enjoy exactly where we are.
Serves 3-4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side dish -- Adapted, slightly, from Mark Bittman
3 Japanese eggplants (you can use regular eggplant too, I just like the flavor and texture of the Japanese variety), diced in 1 inch cubes
2 medium zucchini, diced in 1 inch cubes
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried herbs (I used Italian seasoning here, but thyme would be great)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
6 or 7 Roma tomatoes, diced in 1 inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or heavy bottomed pot. Add diced eggplant, stirring to coat, and cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium, and cook for another 10 minutes or until eggplant is very soft.
2. Add zucchini and onions and more olive oil if needed. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add herbs and garlic. Add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, until tomatoes are cooked through and release their juices. Stir in chopped basil and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with extra basil or parsley. Serve immediately.