Ratatouille

Nov 2, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

The word "ratatouille" evokes many thoughts and images in our household.

For my three-year old son, it's an image of a talking rat, fuzzy and adorable.  After watching the movie "Ratatouille" for the 38th time, he finally realized that "Ratatouille" was not the name of the main character, but the name of a dish that is made in the movie. It will probably be another 38 viewings until he is tired of watching it.

via Disney

For David, ratatouille is "a pain in the butt".  Traditionally, every vegetable is cooked separately, then tossed together at the end; the process is time-consuming and well, a pain in the butt.  In his mind, it's also difficult to spell, difficult to pronounce, all around pain-in-the-butt.

For me, it's the quintessential French bistro dish that takes me back to my brief time in Paris.  It's the comfort food of a culture I adore.  So when I found this recipe that adds lots of other ingredients but abbreviates the cooking process, I jumped at the chance of recreating a little bit of France in our kitchen.

We had just made some eggplant curry (a favorite in our household, let me know if you want the recipe) and had some Asian vegetables left in our fridge.  I'm kind of a purist when it comes to recipes and like to do exactly what they say, at least for the first go-around, but since this particular recipe was already a tangent from the traditional ratatouille, I figured it would be acceptable if the vegetables weren't exactly right.

The result was amazing - a great use of many vegetables, the smell of a Paris bistro permeating the house, and the taste of fall, hearty and warming.

image by Dana Treatvia Dana Treat

Ratatouille
Adapted from Dana Treat
Serves 3-4

Olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small winter squash, peeled and seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used unpeeled delicata squash)
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used snake beans)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used Chinese eggplant)
1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large and preferably oven proof pot over medium heat.  Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions and a large pinch of salt.  Sauté for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic, chile, and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes.  Add the winter squash and continue frying for another 5 minutes.

Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside in a bowl.  Add a bit more oil and then add the green beans, zucchini, and eggplant to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Return the contents of the bowl to the pot.  Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, and another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Stir well and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Pour in enough water to half cover the vegetables.  Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently, lowering heat as necessary, for 30 minutes.  Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.  If your pot is oven-proof, remove the cover and place the pot in the oven.  If not, transfer the vegetables and their liquid to a large deep roasting pan.  Either way, bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the parsley and serve.

Topics: Food, Life

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