Here’s the thing about Ratatouille – it’s originally a Provencal vegetable stew, and like any stew, just calls out for the personalized touch. Don’t like eggplant – who cares? Peppers aren’t your thing? Use something else. I think you’ll love this version, roughly adapted from Tyler Florence. We do.
Ratatouille is a meal in itself (think of it with a good, crusty bread) but I served it with Herb Crusted Tilapia this week, so I know it makes a marvelous side dish, too.
The great thing about Ratatouille is that I find that even the vegetables that I (or my kids) don’t like as much get eaten, because they blend in with the flavors we love – bonus, because I like to serve as wide of variety of vegetables that I can.
I read somewhere it takes an average of eight different tries to like a food taste. Think of babies eating – they spit it out, we scoop it up and put it back in, and then serve it again and again, and eventually they lap it up. I’ve spoken before about my “one bite rule.” In my home I expect my kids to try a bite of everything on their plate, and the reason – to slowly nudge them over to new and different tastes.
Ratatouille is good warm, but really shines at room temperatures. Not as pretty the next day, I think it tastes even better. If you don’t have anchovies (I forgot to buy this time) try just a scant teaspoon of fish sauce or omit for a true Vegetarian meal. Do drizzle it with a little balsamic. By the way, my son thinks this would make a fantastic pasta sauce…
- 1 small eggplant
- 1 zucchini
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 large onion
- 2 to 3 anchovies, dices and crushed, optional
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
- fresh basil, thinly sliced, to taste – anywhere from a few leaves to a 1/2 bunch
- fresh parsley, chopped, optional
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 to 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large tomato, or up to 3
- 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 small dried red chile, optional, or a pinch of red pepper flakes
- Vinegar – balsamic or red
Cut eggplant lengthwise in half, then in half again, keeping the stem end intact. (You are basically quartering it.) Slice through the quarters into inch wide pieces. Slice zucchini into one inch slices – if it’s large, half or quarter, just like the eggplant, then slice. Chunk the bell pepper into bite sized pieces. Peel and half the onions and then slice pole to pole. Cut the tomato into roughly one inch pieces.
In a large skillet, add 1/2 cup of the olive oil and heat till very hot. Having your olive oil at the right temperature helps keep the eggplant from absorbing too much oil. Add eggplant and cook until it’s just browning, soft and wilted, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove to a large plate and spread out on paper towels.
Add another 1/4 cup of olive oil, and when heated, add the zucchini to the pan and cook until just wilted. Remove them from the pan and place with the eggplant. Add in another 1/4 cup of olive oil and the onion, anchovies and herbs. Cook until softened and the onions are beginning to brown and carmelize, five to seven minutes. About halfway through, add in the red peppers. Add in the garlic and cook for a minute or two.
Push the vegetables aside and add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste. Briefly heat through, then stir into the rest of the ingredients in the pan. Add the tomato and heat through, then return the eggplant and zucchini to the pan. Open up the red chile and sprinkle over, stirring in. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as desired.
Now, here’s your choice: For a fresher ratatouille (my preference, especially in summer) you can heat it all through and serve (preferably at room temperature) or you can continue to cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until everything is softened, melded together and juicy. I use the higher amount of tomato if I’m using this method.
Finish with a splash of vinegar and a sprinkling of herbs. I think the vinegar is REALLY key in this dish.
Note: I often just eyeball how much olive oil to use. The eggplant can soak up quite a bit, but I think I generally use far less than stated.
from the kitchen of http://www.frugalhausfrau.com
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read Strategies Applied for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
Cal 290; cal fr fat 243, tot fat 27.55g; sat fat 3.83g; chol 1.13g; sod 57g; carb 10.72g; fib 4.26g; sug 5.54g; prot 2.42g
Put Your own Spin on It:
- As mentioned before, use your favorite vegetables and seasonings.
- You can cut down on the olive oil – although it’s important as a flavoring as well as an ingredients – use a nonstick skillet and a thinner coating – if it starts to dry, add a little water and steam.
- I happened to have some Sofrito in my freezer, and I love to use a bit in a dish like this instead of the tomato paste.
- Not traditional by any means, but I love to throw a few pitted Kalamata olives in mine, especially if I’m not serving with any meats.
- Have leftovers you’re afraid you won’t use? Throw them in a blender for a super healthy smoothie or gazpacho type soup.
- Serve over Pasta.
- Consider, perhaps, using left over Ratatouille in Chicken Italiano instead of the tomatoes the recipe calls for – since the Ratatouille is already cooked, just add it in before baking.
Recipe made June 2012, slightly adapted from Tyler Florence
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