It’s almost the end of summer and….I can’t believe I forgot to make ratatouille! How on earth did I forget to make one of my favorite French recipes? Probably because normally, when a kind neighbor offers me an abundance of homegrown tomatoes, zucchini, and bell peppers, I turn into a regular ratatouille machine. But this summer, the goods haven’t been quite so forthcoming. (Yes. I’m talking to you, Ellie!).
Of course, there’s always the farmer’s market. And since there will be a few more weeks of patio dining, I’ll have a chance to get my fill of this French _____________.
This French what? Is it a main dish? A side dish? A relish? A garnie? A sit-down first course?
This question used to puzzle me, so I asked French cooks how they serve it. Here’s what I found out:
1. First of all, ratatouille is generally served à tiède, at room temperature—in this case, a summery-warm room temperature. This is truly how the flavors shine through the best.
2. Some bonnes femmes told me that they serve the dish as a sit-down first course, simply with bread. Where we might serve veggies as a side dish, the French often serve composed vegetable dishes, such as this one, solo. (Read more about how the French dine in courses.)
3. Another woman told me she served ratatouille with something quite simple, such as a omelet or a rotisserie chicken. No one mentioned serving it with more elaborate main dishes.
4. Ratatouille is also served, sometimes, as a main dish in itself. This is how I like it best: with bread, charcuterie, maybe a little salad, and cheeses.
The recipe? My recipe is here, and I quite like it. But I’ve got to admit that Alice Waters’s recipe—recently highlighted as a Genius Recipe by the Food52 people—looks like a classic. With all the abundance of zucchini out there, why not try them both?