by Holladay Allen
Native Foods Cafe
Ratatouille is a stew-like dish that is often served as a side dish but can most definitely be the main attraction served with some warm bread, brown rice or pasta. The word ratatouille from the Occitan word ratatolha and the dish originated in the area around the Occitan Provence, or Occitania, which is a historical part of southern Europe including the southern half of France with a unique dialect and cuisine all its own.
Ratatouille is a simple dish of tomatoes, garlic, onion, peppers, zucchini, eggplant and fresh herbs. There is some debate as to how it should be prepared… ratatouille purists usually insist on cooking each vegetable separately so the full flavor of each vegetable is present.
The secret of a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself.
—Joël Robuchon, The Complete Robuchon
The recipe I used, from The Voluptuous Vegan, follows with this method of preparation… so it takes a little bit longer, but it is well worth it. This is a great summer time stew because it is not heavy and it utilizes a bunch of delicious vegetables that are reaching their flavor peaks during the warm summer months.
(2) 1 # eggplants
6 TBSP olive oil
2 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeds & membrane removed, cut into 1” squares
1 red bell pepper, seeds & membrane removed, cut into 1” squares
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1" pieces
1 # tomatoes (3 medium), seeds removed, cut into large dice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup basil chiffonade
Use a peeler to remove strips of the eggplant skin; it will appear striped. Cut the eggplants into 1-inch cubes. Salt the eggplant cubes, and place them in a colander over a bowl for 30 minutes to sweat. Quickly rinse the eggplant cubes and blot them dry.
Warm 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, or until the onions and peppers are softened. Remove from the pot and set aside.
Wipe out or wash the pot and warm 2 more tablespoons of oil. Sauté the zucchini over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until just browned on all sides. Rather than stirring the zucchini, allow the pieces to sit in place until browned on one side, then turn to brown another side. Set aside.
Warm 2 more tablespoons of the oil in a large pot and cover with a single layer--no more--of eggplant cubes. Cook over medium heat, turning to brown all sides, just until the eggplant is softened and browned, about 4 minutes. If necessary, wipe out the pot, add 2 more tablespoons of oil, and cook the remaining eggplant cubes. Be careful not to mash the eggplant.
Return all of the cooked vegetables to the large pot with the eggplant. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring every so often, to allow the flavors to meld. Do not let the vegetables get too mushy or overcooked. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the ratatouille from the heat and stir in the basil chiffonade.
Native Foods Cafe, vegan, vegan food, vegan restaurant, vegan recipe, ratatouille recipe