This year the premier kitchenware maker Le Creuset celebrates it’s 90th anniversary. Their most iconic, and most reviered, piece is the dutch (or french) oven. Often imitated, but never duplicated. We long for the day when we can our call one of those beauties our own. It remains at the top of our kitchen wish lists. Despite lacking a Le Creuset dutch, we decided to pay homage to the object of our desires by making the classic french vegetable stew, ratatouille.
Ratatouille is one of those things that is more a technique than a specific recipe. A quick Google search for a recipe will reveal seemingly infinite variations of the classic recipe. Basically it consists of onions, peppers, tomatoes (fresh or canned, it matters not), zucchini, eggplants, and various aromatics cooked down to a luscious stew. Traditionally, it was a way to take advantage of the bounty of produce from the garden. It is eaten hot or cold/room temperature. And like (every) other stew, it taste even better the next day.
Some advice on selecting the eggplant and zucchini (and summer squash if using): smaller is better. This helps with both texture and flavor. When we went to the produce market we were lucky to find practically perfect baby eggplants. However, we did not fare so well when it came to the zucchini and summer squash. We selected the smallest specimens available, and even though they were not ideal, we still ended up with a damn tasty ratatouille.
This recipe makes a LOT of Ratatouille, so feel free to scale it down, or not, because it freezes well.***
Oh, Martha’s Ratatouille
3 Large Onions, sliced into large half moons
3 Red Bell Peppers, cut into 2 inch strips 1/2 inch thick
2 28 ounce cans of Whole peeled tomatoes, seeded and juices strained
2 TBL Finely chopped garlic
11/2 pounds of zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices*
11/2 pounds of summer squash, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Or additional zucchini*
2 pounds of baby eggplants, tops trimmed and quartered**
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
Salt, to taste, and for leeching vegetables, if necessary
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 TBL chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried), plus more for garish
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheight. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large dutch oven heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and red bell peppers. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and some to all of the strained juices. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Working in batches, add zucchini and summer squash in a singsle layer. You may need to add more oil in between batches. Saute until golden brown inn spots. Add to the other vegetables.
- In a large bowl, toss eggplant with a tablespoon of olive oil. Brush the parchment of the baking sheet with olive oil as well. Spread eggplant in a single layer and roast in the oven 20 to 30 minutes, or until well browned. Occasionally tossing. Add the eggplant to the ratatouille. Add the dry herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until reduced and thick, the time will vary depending on the water content of the vegetables used. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and fresh basil.
*If your zucchini and summer squash are on the larger side, seed them (which is what we should have done) and place slices in a large colander, generously salt, toss and set aside for about 30 minutes for the salt to draw out excess water. Rinse of the salt and dry before sauteing.
**If using larger/”regular” eggplants cut into 2 inch sized pieces, place in a large colander, generously salt and set aside for 30 minutes for the salt to draw out the excess water. Rinse off the salt and dry before tossing with olive oil.
***If you end up freezing the ratatouille take note that the herbs will lose a lot of their flavor when thawed out, so be prepared to re-season the stew.
Serve with pasta, as a savory crepe filling, with crusty bread, or however your heart desires. We like it topped with a poached egg or two.