Ratatouille is a great dish to make in the summer months when the garden is brimming with zucchini, eggplants, and tomatoes. It's traditionally cooked for a long period of time. This "Not Really Ratatouille" is a quicker and fresher approach allowing each vegetable's individual taste and texture to emerge.
The Making of Not Really Ratatouille
It's summertime and the living is easy. Well, it's hot, it is somedays muggy, and my vegetable garden is producing a good amount of fresh veggies, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant. All so fresh fresh fresh.
I've always resisted ratatouille. All of the preparations I've had consisted of overcooked mush vegetables, one hardly distinguishable from another. A hodgepodge of cooked soft glop. While the taste may be fine, it felt to me to be more like baby food than real grown-up food. So I came up with this version of ratatouille that allows each of the vegetables to shine through in their own individual glorious goodness.
The trick, of course, is to cook each vegetable to its own individual perfection and then remove it from the skillet. Once each vegetable has been cooked, the sauce is prepared and the vegetables are returned to the heat and finish in the sauce. Now you have a dish of vegetables that each remains true to themselves and the flavors blend together but are still not mushy.
Since the movie Ratatouille was released, I think more chefs are finding that keeping the vegetables from stewing together is the better option. And why not have your summer veggies keep their taste?
Now about that movie, while I think, for a rat, Remy is cute enough, and the story is fun and all, there's something about rats in the kitchen that just doesn't sit right with me. Sort of like overcooked vegetables.
So try this recipe for Not Really Ratatouille. It's really Better Ratatouille.
Not Really Ratatouille
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or as needed
- 1 large onion coarsely chopped
- 1 leek cleaned and sliced, optional
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 medium zucchini cut in half lengthwise and sliced
- 2 medium Japanese eggplants sliced or 1 large eggplant, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper quartered and sliced
- 4 large tomatoes peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- ¼ cup chopped parsley preferably flat-leaf
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat; add the onion, leek, peppers, and garlic; saute until the onion just begins to brown. Remove with a spoon to a bowl and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet, add the zucchini and saute until just beginning to soften and brown, about 3 minutes; remove with a spoon; add to the onions in the bowl.
- Add the remaining oil to the skillet; add the eggplant and saute until the eggplant begins to soften; about 3 minutes (add more oil if the eggplant absorbs it all); remove to the bowl with the onions and zucchini.
- Add the tomatoes to the skillet; cook until they begin to break down and made a sauce; return the reserved vegetables to the skillet along with the basil, parsley, salt, and pepper; cook until just heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings.