Monday, February 25, 2008

And the Winner Is...Ratatouille!

“If you are what you eat, I only want to eat the good stuff.”
Rèmy in Ratatouille

I'm with Rèmy.

Oh, I just couldn't resist! This recipe has been in my "On the Back Burner" file and it was just too good a chance to pass up! A dish with humble roots here in Provence, I offer you a twist on the simple ratatouille.

When I was young, the word evoked the image of a drum roll. Now it brings to mind images of roughly chopped vegetables, cooked soft. Their flavors marry in the cooking process to result in an earthy, sweet and gently piquant (even smoky in this version) pot of veggie stew.


Ratatouille comes from touiller which means, “to stir" or "stir up”. Those humble roots are just down the road from me in Nice, where it was originally a poor farmer's dish of courgettes (zucchini), tomatoes, green and red peppers (I leave out the green peppers...they don't do much for me and I like the sweetness of only red peppers), onion, and garlic. I’m not sure who started it, but someone along the line added aubergine (eggplant). And to that creative soul, I say: “Chapeau!” (Hats off!).

Served hot or cold, it makes an appearance chez La Fourchette in winter and summer. When it’s still cold outside, it might be served as a warm side dish accompanying, perhaps, a piece of breaded (with bread crumbs made from 6-cereal bread and grated parmesan cheese) pan-fried cabillaud (cod). Tomorrow it will be topped with a poached egg for lunch. mmmmm-hmmmmmmm.

In summer, it sidles up alongside a roasted chicken and potatoes that have been drizzled with pesto...or perhaps a piece of grilled lamb. (That summer version is generously topped with basil chiffonade, adding its own sweet and peppery taste and fragrance.)

Although I cooked my ratatouille on the stove for years, it was when I began roasting vegetables for a pasta dish that I discovered the depth of flavors and smokiness that lends itself to ratatouille when everything roasts together before a final stir with the tomatoes. Once they are added to the roasted vegetables, the mix can be left in the hot oven or put on a low heat to bring the tomatoes up to temperature for winter serving. Or simply let the added tomatoes absorb the heat of the roasted vegetables and blend together in the time it takes for the mélange to come to room temperature for serving during the summer. Pop into the frigo (fridge) overnight and it’s a cool salad for the following day...with the flavors having had even more time to carry on together for even better results the next day!


Anyway you stir it up and serve it, ratatouille is an award-winning dish!

It's still a winter marché out there where cabbages and root vegetables abound, but there are tulips in the flower marché! There is hope! One of these days, spring is sure to follow. (In the meantime, we have ratatouille to get us through the transition.)



And you? What goes with your version of ratatouille? I’d love to know what it fills (i.e., omelet, crêpe, etc.) or any other creative things you do with the version that comes from your little kitchen. Will you share?


Roasted Ratatouille Chez La Fourchette


Olive oil

1 courgette, quartered lengthwise and cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and de-ribbed then cut into chunks
1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices then cut into chunks
1-2 red onions, quartered lengthwise then each quarter cut in half to form chunks
1 head of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
15 ounces of whole peeled tomatoes, hand-squished into the mix
(or an equal amount of peeled and seeded fresh tomatoes for the
summer version.)
Add to your taste:
herbs de provence
sea salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 375º F

Place all cut vegetables into heavy iron skillet or roasting pan. Toss with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and herbs de Provence to your taste. Place into oven and roast for 50-60 minutes minutes, tossing and turning the vegetables at the halfway point.

At the end of the roasting time, add the tomatoes and place on a low heat to bring the tomatoes to a gentle simmer before serving hot or allow to absorb the heat of the roasted veggies to serve just warm or at room temperature for summer.

Serves 4-6

11 comments:

Deborah Truesdell said...

Oh my gosh, this sounds divine! I know it is simple (and that's part of the attraction), but I can't wait to try it. I have a fondness for Ratatouille because when I was in Paris last summer we went to see it at the cinema, in English with French subtitles, and it was the perfect setting to watch it! I'll let you know when I've made this and how much I enjoy it! Thanks for sharing another wonderful recipe!!! Spring is starting to happen here, too. Little flowers budding out on the trees and green, green hills from all the rain we finally received this winter. Sparkling sunshine today and birdsong everywhere!

Hugs,
Debbie

la fourchette said...

Debbie,

"Divine"...now there's a word to bring this dish from the humble to the sublime! Yes, get thee to the kitchen and pop this in the oven! I'm confident you'll find yourself transported to your wanderings through the marché in Aix.

And how charming that you saw Ratatouille in Paris. I'm guessing you could really relate to Rèmy gazing dreamily out over the Paris skyline from the window!

Bon appétit,
Leslie

p.s. I've received a couple of messages now on the final photo looking "undercooked" for ratatouille...that's because it is! That shot is before it goes into the oven. Whew! Glad we've got that cleared up. (And thanks to those of you who prompted me to make sure that was clear. You help me to "keep it real".)

Leila said...

We took our two young sons to see Ratatouille last summer - the first movie we'd attended as a whole family (I'd been letting hubbie take them to kid flicks). It was such a pleasure! And they liked it so much that they went to see it again with my husband on a night I was out.

Then my six year old asked me to MAKE RATATOUILLE for him. Was I pleased. However he wasn't that thrilled with it, since he doesn't like things that are stewed or "mixed together." Sigh. He does eat tabbouli and lentil soup however. He'll come around.

la fourchette said...

leila,

I found Ratatouille absolutely charming - engaging for all ages. And especially for those who take pleasure in cooking and eating (pleasures that I suspect we share!)

If your six year old has got tabbouli and lentil soup *under his belt*, I'm confident that it won't be long before he's warming up to new things stewed and/or "mixed together". Sounds like he's off to a good start.

(and wooohooo - for the "shout out" from our Mr. Bittman!)

Leila said...

*blush* thank you for noticing, Madame La Fourchette...

Anonymous said...

i sometimes spice up mine with indian spices and serve with paratha... or i mix it in with some cous cous and have with chicken or other grilled meat. yum.

la fourchette said...

anonymous,

now there's a thought! taking ratatouille on a voyage to india had not occurred to me but makes perfect sense. and with a bit of protein tossed in served over cous cous - lovely! thanks so much for stopping in and sharing what's happening in your "little kitchen"!

bon appétit!
leslie

Michael said...

Hui Leslie

It may seem a bit odd, but I found your lovely post to be an excellent complement to my thoughts about cloud computing. Hmmm. Well, yes, it is a bit odd, but I hope you might help me here sort out the mess. See how at http://laf.ee/wp/?p=51

Frantzie said...

Your recipe sounds -- and looks! -- delicious. I will try it this weekend.

Do you peel the eggplant or leave the skin on? I'm a skin-on person with most vegetables, but haven't done much with eggplant so am not sure whether the skin would get tough in the roasting process.

Thanks - have enjoyed your blog.

la fourchette said...

Michael,
Now there's a unique association - ratatouille and cloud computing! I'm new to the term and the term is new to the world, actually...but if "cloud computing" is roughly chopped, roasted and mixed, well, then I'm right with you!

Thank you for stopping in at La Fourchette...and for the link! In fact, for the entire entry and kind words on your Quickthink. (It's likely I'll be visiting more often...if not for the creative thinking, then for that fact that you, too, use the word "lovely".)

Frantzie,
Oh, I think you're gonna like this! Thank you for visiting...and for your kind words. Yes, get that shopping list out and hop to it. Chop, chop!

I do not peel the eggplant. (I tend to be a "skin-on" type as well.) It softens as it roasts so there's no need to peel. It won't be in the way at all when all is said and done.


An additional note from an email comment: someone had mentioned that the version he was familar with was cooked until it was almost all blended with no real recognizable "chunks". You can roast this to whatever degree you wish...longer for more "mushy" quality or just watch to see what looks good. It's all a matter of taste, non?

Bon appétit,
Leslie

Frantzie said...

Made the ratatouille Sunday afternoon with the eggplant skin on and it was wonderful - the skin softens wonderfully, just as you said it would. I used my homemade herbes de Provence and the lavender came through mightily. I was afraid from the cooking aroma that perhaps I'd overdone the lavender in the mix, but the "herbes" all just melted together and were wonderful.

Thank you for another wonderful recipe.

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