“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
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
Add to your taste:
herbs de provence
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.