rat-a-tat

rat-a-tat-toooooouuuuuille!

Ok, so the name is sometimes more fun than the dish itself. Ratatouille evokes all kinds of call-outs and tabletop drumming from me, in an effort to convince Brian of its viability as a recipe to remain in our files. It starts one Saturday morning at the farmer’s market, as we pass a table full of deep-purple eggplant and I turn to Brian to ask “how about ratatouille this week?”. He’ll snarl a little, let out an “eh” and shrug his shoulders. This happens for a few consecutive Saturdays, until finally I’ll say, “come on…rat-a-tat-toooooouuuuuille!” and he’ll grin and agree that this can be the week for our once-a-year ratatouille night.

Ratatouille

For me, it wouldn’t be the end of summer without the classic eggplant, zucchini and tomato-laden dish. It feels like a last-hurrah for the final produce of the season and the perfect start to autumn, when I start craving meals of its kind. It is homey and hearty, a melding of flavors served warm over pasta and topped with shaved parmesan cheese. I like to dunk a couple of thick slices of crusty french bread into the juices, and usually pair the meal with one of my first glasses of red wine of the season. Its tradition, and one that I cling to mightily despite a little resistance.

Ratatouille-2

For Brian, ratatouille is just a little “blah”. He doesn’t mind it so much, but would prefer that we skip straight from summer salads to creamy potato cheese soup and pans full of bubbly lasagna. Typically, after we’ve purchased our eggplant Saturday morning, it will sit on the countertop for a couple of days until finally, on the cusp of its transition from firm and fleshy to soft and dimpled, I’ll convince Brian that “tonight is rat-a-tat-touille night!” and it will be peeled, cubed, salted and tossed in a pan with a glug of olive oil, freshly diced zucchini and a generous pile of minced garlic.

Ratatouille-3

After some silly names, a few tabletop drumming performances and maybe a little ratatouille dance, it is the smell that will finally bring Brian around – his nose leads him to the kitchen and he’ll sheepishly tell me “it smells really good in here, honey”. The eggplant is set aside, and in its place onion and bell pepper start sizzling away. Tomatoes are added, and as their juice is released the eggplant is tossed back into the pan. All is covered and simmered until the eggplant is silky and the zucchini and peppers are just tender. Pasta is boiled, parmesan is shaved and bread is sliced. Dinner is served alongside glasses of red wine, in the golden light of the fading sun and suddenly, it is Fall.

Ratatouille-4

Basic Ratatouille

adapted from the joy of cooking

over pasta, this will serve 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp
  • 2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4-5 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 large bell peppers, red, yellow or orange, cut into 1-inch squares
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped and seeded fresh tomatoes (I used romas.  the recipe says to peel them, I did not.)
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme (oregano is good as well)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt + pepper

Method:

  1. After peeling and chopping your eggplant, place it in a colander and sprinkle with course sea salt.  Let sit for 30 minutes to release some of the liquid, rinse well and pat dry.
  2. Heat the oil over high heat and add the eggplant and zucchini.  Saute’ for about 8 minutes, then add the garlic.  Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes until the veggies are golden and just tender. (This timing will depend on the freshness of your eggplant.  You don’t want it to get too soft, so watch closely.)
  3. Remove the vegetables from the pan and reduce the heat to medium-high.  Drizzle in the 2 tbsp of olive oil and add the onion and bell pepper.  Cook for 8-10 minutes until the veggies are just tender but not browned.  Season with salt and pepper to tasted.
  4. Add tomatoes, thyme and bay leaf.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the eggplant mixture and cook until everything is tender 10-20 minutes.  (Again, this depends on your veggies.  You want the eggplant to be silky but not falling apart, and the other veggies to be tender but not mushy.)  Taste and adjust your seasonings.

*  We decided after this go-round that the ratatouille could be improved with the addition of some red pepper flakes.  I’d add about a 1/4 tsp, depending on your tastes, when you add the onion and bell pepper to the pan.

*  Another possibility, if you’re not a fan of spicy food, is to add capers.  I had a bruschetta recently with eggplant, onion, tomato and capers that was absolutely delicious, so think they’d be lovely in the ratatouille as well.  I’d start with a tablespoon, added with the tomatoes, and add more if you feel it is necessary.

Ratatouille-5

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25 responses to “rat-a-tat

  1. MMMMM love ratatouille – perfect for this time of year :0

  2. Just as I would have expected, your copy of the “Joy of Cooking” is perfectly clean. Most of the pages of ours are stained (courtesy of me) and the whole book is falling apart. Not to mention the red bookmark is all shredded up. How do you do it!?

  3. Love ratatouille my favorite dish! such a pretty photo.
    my grandpa loves ratatouille, and i always make it for him 🙂 because when i was 13 he sent me to a cooking day camp for kids one summer 🙂
    this is inspiring my dinner for tonight!

    xo
    Eliza

  4. Why do I have to live in a state where we still have 85 degree temperatures? I’m so ready for fall and oatmeal, soups and stews. You aren’t helping longing 🙂

  5. I love ratatouille, there is something about the way the vegetables soften into each other and make friends that I find completely comforting on a chilly evening.

    And, my eldest adores the movie of the same name, so it’s a win-win.

  6. Eggplant is still something I am learning to like. I might have to give ratatouille a try.

  7. Mike – Haha…that’s because it is turned to Ratatouille an not Pastry Dough… 🙂

    Whitney – I’m still working on it too. Ratatouille and eggplant parmesan are about the only ways I can tolerate it right now…

  8. I LOVE Ratatouille!! My husband is likes yours, not too terribly fond of it, he’ll eat a small amount then drown his tummy in cereal. haha. Men! Yours looks SOOO good!

  9. prettytimepiece

    awww, this looks so comforting & beautifully seasonal. yum.

    love your blog! I enjoyed reading your past entry about NYC and “capture”. beautiful & inspiring! good luck with your photography 🙂

    ♥ chandra @ http://www.prettytimepiece.wordpress.com

  10. just had dinner and can you guess what i made? 🙂 yup rat-a-tatata oille!! 🙂 yummm. my favorite, saw this post before dinner and i had to make it. had so many veggies that just needed to be used, isnt that what ratatouille means (a mix of all things veggie stew? ) well anyways, it was amazing . thanks for the diner inspiration ur blog is full of inspo!

    xo maya

  11. Ahhh, ratatouille was one of my favorite movies. 🙂 i really enjoyed this! thanks for sharing. a+ photos … my gawsh.

  12. I’m sooo using this recipe tomorrow!!

    PS: I nominated you for a blogger award, come check it out!

    Maggie

  13. I love ratatouille, and yours looks great! That last photo is so pretty too.

  14. Mmm, I love ratatouille! I usually spend all day doing a roasted version, so I’ll definitely have to check out the “Joy of Cooking” one. Thanks for the tip!

  15. I’m a big ratatouille fan…yours is looking especially delicious. Ill have to give the recipe a go.

    Cheers.
    Cherie
    http://cheriepicked.com

  16. never made this dish, but it looks lovely. I am finding so many wonderful dishes lately! i just found your blog and am excited to read more and get more recipes!!!

  17. I just stumbled upon your blog and absolutely love it! Your photography is beautiful and I love your approach to food and cooking. Just wanted to say hi!

  18. I’ve never made ratatouille, but now I want to! Your pictures are beautiful.

  19. I cowardly admit that I’ve never had ratatouille. I didn’t even know what it was until the movie came out.
    Sad, I know.
    But this recipe looks pretty awesome.

  20. i love ratatouille. i make it in the crock pot.

  21. Natalie and Tracy – Welcome! Thanks for commenting, I love hearing from new readers!

  22. This is a great recipe! I posted it on my blog. I am always looking for simple recipes because I live in Moscow, Russia and it’s hard to find some ingredients here. Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Pingback: Ratatouille « Cooking Devushki

  24. Pingback: Farmers’ Market 07.03.10 « veg:ology

  25. I love your blog, and this post inspired me to make ratatouille this weekend with my farmers’ market finds. I have linked back to this post on my blog, veg:ology

    Thanks for all the beautiful photos and great descriptions!

    -Lauren

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