Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
Ahh, yes. Ratatouille. A classic of the French cuisine. What a wonderful thing these Frenchmen have invented. In this recipe, each vegetable “retains its own shape and character” so that you can taste each one but they also blend beautifully to create a wonderful mélange of flavors. We had them with meatballs (vegetarian ones in my case), which I admit is a bit unorthodox and all the French would probably kill us for it. If you want something more traditional, try it with a roast, broiled beef or lamb, pot-au-feu or chicken.
Yields 6-8 servings
- 1 pound eggplant
- 1 pound zucchini
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons oil, divided
- ½ pound yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 (about 1 cup) green bell peppers, sliced
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 pound firm, ripe red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced (directions below)
- 3 tablespoons parsley
- Peel the eggplant and cut it into lengthwise slices 3/8 inches thick, 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.
- Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends and cut it into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices.
- Place the eggplant and zucchini in a bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon of salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel or with paper towels.
- In a 10- to 12-inch skillet, sauté the eggplant and then the zucchini in 4 tablespoons of hot oil one layer at a time. Sauté for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Set aside on a separate dish.
- In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in the oil for about 10 minutes or until tender but not browned. Season to taste.
- After peeling seeding and juicing the tomatoes (instructions below), slice the tomato pulp into 3/8-inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise the heat and boil for several minutes until the juice has almost entirely evaporated.
- Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a 2½-quart saucepan or casserole and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of parsley over it. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top followed by half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini. Finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
- Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip the casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Raise the heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored oil.
Peeling, Seeding and Juicing Tomatoes
- Use firm, ripe, red tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes one or two at a time in boiling water to cover.
- Boil for exactly 10 seconds. Remove.
- Cut out the stem. Peel off the skin starting from the stem hole.
- Cut the peeled tomatoes in half crosswise, not through the stem. Squeeze each half gently to extract the seeds and juices from the center of the tomato.
Comments: Ratatouille can be served hot or cold though I prefer it hot. Keep in mind it’s not the quickest dish to prepare because you have to cook each vegetable separately before combining them. However, you can prepare it the day before; reheating it makes it even more flavorful. When cooking all the vegetables together, be very careful not to scorch the vegetables. I highly recommend using a fireproof casserole if you have one since they are less deep than a saucepan. I don’t have a fireproof casserole and had to make do with a saucepan. I reduced the cooking time considerably out of fear that too little juice would be left. It still turned out wonderful!