I love vegetables. I was the kid who happily ate broccoli and Brussels sprouts, and as an adult, I’m always looking for ways to incorporate more vegetables in our diet. This is easier in the summer, when farmer’s markets pop up around the city and I can buy fresh beautiful vegetables for a competitive price. Sometimes I even get vegetables for free! My in-laws have a very prolific zucchini plant, and as much as they love to cook, they can’t keep up. I was happy to take a couple of zucchini off their hands.
Zucchini (or in French, courgette) is a versatile ingredient. I have oodles of delicious recipes that use zucchini. But when my father-in-law handed me those beautiful zucchini, all I could think was ratatouille.
Ratatouille is a classic French dish with humble origins. Like most French cuisine, it wasn’t dreamed up in a Parisian restaurant, but rather created in everyday kitchens in Provence and Nice. Ratatouille celebrates the unique flavors of each ingredient. Some ratatouille recipes include a tomato sauce or vinaigrette. Not this one. This is a more rustic ratatouille that reminds me of family dinners with my host family and farmer’s markets in Nice. It’s perfect for using up summer vegetables, or it makes a lovely side dish for a cozy winter meal.
- 1 garlic clove crushed*
- 1 large onion sliced (the original calls for half an onion, but I really like onion)
- 1 medium bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
- ½ a large eggplant, cut into 1-2 inch half moon slices (1-2 inches wide, not thick)
- 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-2 inch slices
- 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1-2 inch slices
- ½ teaspoon herbes de Provence*
- Olive Oil
- *Adjust seasonings to your taste. I typically use a tablespoon of minced garlic and about a teaspoon of herbes de Provence
- Slice the eggplant first and sprinkle evenly with salt. Place in a colander for 30 minutes. This allows the bitter juices to drain. Rinse with cold water to remove salt and pat dry with a towel.
- While you are waiting for your eggplant, slice your other vegetables. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and sauté until softened, or about 5 minutes. Remove and reserve.
- Add the bell pepper and more olive oil as needed and sauté until softened, remove and reserve. Adding more olive oil as needed, repeat with zucchini and eggplant.
- Once all vegetables (except the tomatoes!) have been cooked, put all the vegetables back in the pan with a little more olive oil, plus tomatoes, pepper and herbes de Provence. There are two schools of thought on this. One is to dump all the vegetables in together, another is to arrange the vegetables. I like to arrange the vegetables because it isn’t very difficult, but looks impressive and beautiful. And will make just about anyone willing to eat vegetables. I coat the bottom of the pan with a little olive oil and then add the garlic, onion and bell pepper in an even layer on the bottom of the sauté pan. Then I lay the tomato, zucchini and tomato in a spiraling pattern, starting on the outside edge of the pan and working my way in. I then sprinkle the top with a pinch of salt, a little black pepper and herbes de Provence.
- Cover and cook over low heat until the vegetables are tender- about 30 minutes. Uncover and allow to cook for an additional 30 minutes to reduce liquid.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. I enjoy ratatouille over couscous, or on its own as a side dish. I've also been known to use leftover ratatouille as pizza toppings or mixed in with pasta.
- Enjoy, bon appétit!
The secret to delicious ratatouille is cooking the vegetables separately. It may seem time consuming, but it is the only way to cook each vegetable perfectly and maximize the dish’s flavor. You can also use a mandolin slicer to get very thin slices. I prefer thicker slices- it feels a little more homemade- plus that’s how my host family did it in France! You’ll notice from the photos that I skipped the bell pepper this time because I didn’t have any. I know some people like to add yellow squash for color.
The photo at the beginning of this post is from another time I made ratatouille. You can tell that the zucchini is a lot smaller and I used larger tomatoes, which made it easier to make a tight spiral. Both versions tasted delicious!
Adapted from the Cuisinart French Essentials Cookbook