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Dinner Tonight: Ratatouille with Grilled Bread

I was first drawn to this recipe for the novelty factor: It called for four vegetables, four burners, and four pots. Though ratatouille is traditionally a stewed mixture of tomatoes, onions, eggplants, zucchinis, and peppers, in The River Cottage Cookbook British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall feels that this happy mixing should not happen until the very last moment. Until then, this dish will commandeer your entire stove top (in fact, the reason this recipe has no peppers in it is because only fancy people have more than four burners).

Why all the hassle? Each vegetable cooks differently, and at different temperatures. Rather than having them stew together, we want to retain the character of each. The eggplant should become creamy while the zucchini is softened then browned over high heat; the tomatoes should still hold their shape and the onions need a slower caramelization. This way, all the vegetables keep their vibrant colors without going mushy.

It's quite thrilling having all the burners going at once, and thankfully the recipe is no more complicated than cooking each vegetable and combining them. A couple slices of toasted bread rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil rounds this out into a full meal.

About the author: Blake Royer founded The Paupered Chef with Nick Kindelsperger, where he writes about food and occasional travels. After a year in Estonia, he's now living in Chicago.

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