It all started at the farmers market on Thursday. I saw eggplant, and an idea popped into my head.
French cooking had been on my mind, as I had recently read the Julia Child article I shared on Friday and am hoping to convince T-Man to take a French vacation with me when his campaign is over. When I studied in France for a year, I sadly didn’t learn much in the way of cooking my own French cuisine. My diet consisted mostly of baguette and cheese, rice casseroles, or whatever weird crème fraîche “pizza” I could make with store-bought pâte brisée.
The idea that popped into my head was the one and only French dish I learned to cook well when I lived in France: Ratatouille.
Though it hails from the South (I lived in Lyon, which is known for its own special regional cuisine), it’s a widely consumed and easily customizable dish. I often describe it to people as “French salsa” because of its chunky consistency. Essentially, it’s a vegetable stew with tomato, eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper. I’ve served it over rice and pasta before, but because I was going to a barbecue on Friday, I decided to make it into a snackable appetizer (with the help of a crusty baguette)!
(one-handed biking with a large baguette…don’t tell my doctor!)
Usually, I stew everything in one giant pot. But because last Wednesday would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday (and I’m becoming slightly obsessed with her, can you tell?) I decided to take a look at her Ratatouille recipe to unlock any secrets. Besides the fact that she bakes hers in a casserole in the oven – which you couldn’t pay me to do with the weather these days – the biggest difference was that she cooks the vegetables separately.
Thanks for the tip, Jules. Voilà my recette for ratatouille!
adapted from marmiton.org
1 small/medium eggplant
2 bell peppers (one red, one green if you can)
1 small onion
1-2 cloves garlic
salt & pepper
1 tsp thyme
Notes: This recipe also calls for chopped black olives, which I have included before but didn’t this time. I prefer not to remove the skin from the vegetables, but you might. Also, I forgot to add an onion in the pictures you’ll see
Heat up olive oil in one large pan over medium heat (a pot might be better here, as you’ll be adding in the eggplant and zucchini so it should be large) and add onions. Saute until translucent (about 1-2 minutes). Then, add peppers and cook until soft, another 1-2 minutes. Finally, add in diced tomatoes with all their juices. Keep at medium-low heat and stir occasionally for a few minutes. Then add garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Keep at a low simmer.
While tomato mixture is simmering, prepare another pan by heating more olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini and eggplant cubes. Saute only until the cubes are browned all around, 2 minutes or so. Remove from heat and add this mixture into the other pot, stirring to coat. Add thyme and let everything simmer and stew for 10-15 more minutes, until all the vegetables are tender.
Serve warm over rice or pasta, or spoon onto slices of baguette.