Ratatouille

I’ve seen all kinds of recipes for this classic Provençal dish, but in my experience, the most important thing of all is to use market-fresh ingredients and a great olive oil. Though this can be served as a first course (with bread) or as a side dish, I most enjoy serving this as an anchor to a summer’s evening’s dinner, with flatbread or good-quality artisinal crackers, an array of cheeses, perhaps a tossed salad, and a well-chilled dry rosé. However you serve it, tuck a bit away in the fridge for breakfast the next day—it’s divine when brought to room temperature and served aside fluffy scrambled eggs.

P.S.: Depending on what looks best at the market, you can substitute green pepper for red and yellow summer squash for the zucchini. However, there is no substitute for in-season eggplant and tomatoes.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound), cored, seeded, and chopped
1 bouquet garni of fresh herbes de Provence* or 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence
2 small eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), cut into 21/2 x 1/2-inch strips

1. In a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-low heat. Add onions; cook (uncovered), stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes or until onions are tender and starting to turn golden in color. Add the red peppers, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook (uncovered), stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes more or until peppers soften a bit.

2. Add the tomatoes and bouquet garni (or dried herbes de Provence). Increase heat and bring mixture to a boil; return heat to medium-low, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes more.

3. While tomato mixture cooks, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant, stirring to coat with oil. Cook and stir eggplant for 8 minutes. Add zucchini and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until eggplant and zucchini are crisp-tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Add eggplant and zucchini to tomato mixture. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes to meld flavors. At this point, liquid should be reduced to a tablespoon or two; if it is not, cook for a few minutes more. Remove and discard bouquet garni.

3. Serve warm or at room temperature. Ratatouille can also be chilled overnight and brought to room temperature to serve.

Note: For an herb de Provence bouquet garni, using kitchen string tie together 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 sprig fresh rosemary, and 1 sprig fresh sage (or tuck these into an bouquet garni cheesecloth spice bag).

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