Ratatouille
Yield: 2½+ quarts (10+ cups; recipe halves easily) 
Rustic, wholesome, and very versatile, this traditional Provencal dish offers a delicious way to make use of an abundance of summer produce.

If desired, add a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, and for most appeal, try to keep the dice close to a ½-inch.


Ingredients

  • 2 small to medium eggplants (about 1½ pounds)
  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1½ pounds; may use mix of zucchini and summer squash)
  • 1 large (or 2 small) yellow onions (about ½ pound)
  • 2 bell peppers, (about ½ pound; I like a mix of colors)
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced (or about 1½ tablespoons)
  • 4 cups grated or crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh; see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons (42g) tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley (or a mix of fresh basil and parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) balsamic vinegar
  • Optional: ⅓ cup drained and rinsed capers or chopped olives (like pitted Kalamatas or your favorite green olives; may use a mix); a can of rinsed and drained cannellini or garbanzo beans

Instructions

  1. Trim off the ends of the eggplant and zucchini. Do not peel. Cut each into cubes measuring about ½ an inch. (There should be roughly 9 cups of eggplant cubes and 6 cups of zucchini.)
  2. Peel the onions and cut into ½-inch cubes. (There should be about 1½ cups.)
  3. Core and seed the bell peppers, and cut them into ½-inch pieces. (You’ll have about 2½ cups of these.)
  4. Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the eggplant and zucchini. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon fresh black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Cook, stirring, over high heat, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste, and stir to blend. Add the bay leaf and thyme along with another 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Helpful hints: If you like your ratatouille to be really velvety and cooked down, you may continue to simmer until it reaches your desired texture. I like to stop when the veggies are very tender but still maintain their integrity. I also like the consistency to be a little soupy. This makes it delightful for scooping over cooked grains and also accounts for thickening that will occur as the ratatouille sits. If you prefer a thicker consistency, you may remove the lid during the latter part of the cooking time.
  6. Remove from the heat, and stir in the parsley, basil, balsamic vinegar, and optional olives, capers, and/or beans. Taste for seasoning. When using fresh tomatoes, I find that one more teaspoon of kosher salt is perfect for my family’s tastes. (Note that this is a big batch of veggies, and proper seasoning really makes them shine. That said, you may simply prefer less or need less if using canned tomatoes that contain salt, if you’re topping with cheese, or if using a finer grain table or sea salt.)

Notes

I like to grate vine-ripened tomatoes with a handheld grater right into my Pyrex quart measure (could use a mixing bowl). I grate until I’m left with a piece of skin in my hand, and then discard the skin. Optionally, you could use 4 cups of canned crushed tomatoes or even a mix of canned and fresh. When using fresh, the number of tomatoes needed will vary based on size. My last batch used six. Start with more than you need, weight-wise, as you will be discarding much of the skin. Optionally, you could use Roma or plum tomatoes, which tend to be less watery. This is fine. The desired thickness of the ratatouille can easily be adjusted in the cooking stage.

To freeze ratatouille, cool it completely and then transfer to an airtight container and freeze for 3 to 4 months.


More recipes at FountainAvenueKitchen.com