So, I looked in my fridge and noticed that I had: eggplants, bell peppers, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes. That didn't happen on purpose--it's what they had at the farmers' market. But not until my wife said we should have ratatouille did it strike me how convenient this recipe is at this time of year. I mean, all of those ingredients are in season at the exact same time. What a wonder.
That doesn't mean finding a recipe was easy. Most involved cooking all the ingredients together in a large pot, meaning they'd get all broken-up and lose their texture. To avoid that, some recipes suggested cooking every item separately, then combining them at the end, which sounded like a lot of work.
Luckily, I found this one on Curiously Ravenous, originally taken from Chez Panisse Cooking by Paul Bertolli with Alice Waters. It offered a nice mix of cooking a few things separately, but keeping everything manageable. My favorite part: the use of high heat. Not only are the ingredients cooked in stages, but some veggies get an extra hit of flavor from the heat. This especially helps the peppers, which get crisp and caramelized. In the end, this version of ratatouille feels less like a pragmatic stew, more like what it should be: a celebration of the abundant season.
About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is a freelance writer in Chicago. He is the co-founder of The Paupered Chef and spends most of his time playing with the new cooking gadgets he got from his wedding.
- 8 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 Japanese eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 4 bell peppers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper
- Small handful of parsley and basil
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the eggplants in a roasting pan along with 1/4 cup of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. Wrap with aluminum foil, and cook for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, pour the oil in and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion and saute until light brown. Then crank the heat to high, add the bell peppers, and cook until they start to brown, stirring constantly. Pour in the vinegar and cook for one minute, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Pour contents into a large bowl.
In the now empty pot, pour in 2 tablespoons of oil and turn the heat to medium. Toss in the squash and zucchini and cook until they soften. Then add the tomatoes. Let them begin to release their juices. When the liquid starts to simmer, dump the onions and peppers back in and stir in the tomato paste. Toss in the cooked eggplant slices. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for two minutes, gently stirring contents.
Turn off the heat, sprinkle in the herbs, season with salt and pepper, and serve with some crusty bread.