“Ratatouille. It’s like a stew, right? Why do they call it that? If you’re gonna name a food, you should give it a name that sounds delicious. Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat patootie! Which does not sound delicious.”-Ratatouille, 2007
Fortunately, the character of Linguini in Disney Pixar’s film Ratatouille doesn’t quite know what he’s talking about when referring to one of France’s most beloved and famous dishes. It is after all the dish that makes even cutthroat food critic Anton get teary eyed at since it brings back memories of his mother’s cooking.
Last week D’s dad had given us a ridiculous amount of vegetables from his garden including eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini. And so instead of worrying about how I was going to possibly use them all, ratatouille came to mind as the chief ingredients that comprise it are…tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant (along with onions and peppers).
I hadn’t made anything “French” in a while and I have to say it was nice being back in the culinary saddle. Although recipes for ratatouille were in all three of my French cookbooks, I ended up going with the version from my The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan. It’s a beautiful cookbook that I actually shared in another post (click here) and sadly, until this past Friday I had only ever made one thing from it. I’ll admit, it’s a very heavy book with many recipes all of which are in very tiny font so sometimes I get the least bit intimidated as I don’t want to spend all day cooking. However, after comparing the recipe for ratatouille with Julia Child’s version, the simpler recipe was hands down the one from the Willan cookbook (sorry Julia).
It was not at all difficult to make and even with a heaping first serving, there was a lot of leftovers, even enough for perhaps another meal altogether. In short, if you’re ever in need of something to make that will quickly and rather effortlessly use up some of those summer vegetables, be sure to try ratatouille.
recipe courtesy of The Country Cooking of France by Anne Willan
2 small eggplants, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut crosswise into slices 3/8 inch thick
12 ounces small zucchini, trimmed and cut into slices 1/2 inch thick
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced
1 large bouquet garni
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
-Spread the sliced eggplants and zucchini on trays, sprinkle on them with salt, and leave to stand for about 30 minutes to draw out the juices. Rinse them with cold water, drain, and dry on paper towels.
-Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a flameproof casserole over medium heat. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and saute until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Take the casserole from the heat. Mix the garlic and coriander seeds with pepper and a little salt in a small bowl. Layer the eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers in the casserole, sprinkling each layer with the garlic mixture. Spoon the remaining oil on top and push and the bouquet garni into the vegetables. Cover and simmer gently over low heat until the vegetables are quite tender, stirring occasionally to mix them, 25 to 35 minutes. If the stew is too soupy, remove the lid for the last 15 minutes of cooking.
-Discard the bouquet garni, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Ratatouille may be refrigerated for up to 2 days and warmed gently on the stove top before serving. Serve it in the casserole, sprinkled with parsley.