I have phases when food just seems to speak to me, encouraging me to pick up a knife and cook. This time it started when I opened the refrigerator to add a bright purple glossy eggplant and shiny new green bell pepper to the yellow and green striped summer squash in the produce drawer. The sweet onions, fragrant, fresh garlic and pale green leeks were beckoning, and they all joined chorus with the luscious red tomatoes ripening on the kitchen counter.
What began as a whisper, “ra-tuh-TOO-ee, ra-tuh-TOO-ee, ra-tuh-TOO-ee”, became a full-fledged song, as I started to chop and sauté.
There are many recipes for ratatouille, the traditional Provencal vegetable stew, deeply flavored with garlic, basil and marjoram. A popular summer dish when there is an abundance of fresh vegetables, ratatouille is usually served as a side dish. We enjoy it over pasta, as a filling for omelets, and at room temperature as a spread on toasted garlic bread.
While there is no standard recipe, there is much debate upon the method of preparation. In his book, The Complete Rubuchon, Joel Rubuchon writes that the “secret to a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so they each will taste of itself.” Julia Child agrees. I like to sauté the garlic, onions and leeks, add the peppers, and then the summer squash and zucchini. Out of respect for eggplant, I sliced it, slathered it with pesto, and cooked it on the grill. The garlicy-basil flavored cubes were perfect to then add to the stew.
Ratatouille is also a 2007 computer- animated comedy film about a rat dying to become a chef that I have yet to see. Do you suppose the vegetables sing to him too?
Summer Market Ratatouille
- 1 cup chopped fresh onion about 2 medium
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium eggplant chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like parsley basil, oregano, marjoram
- 2 cups chopped zucchini or summer squash about 2
- 1 bell pepper (red orange, yellow, or green) cut into julienne strips
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- In a heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Stir in the eggplant and herbs, cover, and cook until the eggplant is soft, stirring to prevent from sticking. Add the bell pepper, summer squash or zucchini, and tomatoes and cook until soft. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.
- To serve: Ratatouille may be served over pasta. Or spoon into individual casserole dishes, top with Parmesan cheese, heat in 350-degree oven til bubbly and cheese is melted. Or serve at room temperature with artisan bread or crackers as an appetizer. Or serve cold on a sandwich.
- Serves 4 generously.