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Without fail, every time I hear "ratatouille," I think of the animated movie that many of us have come to love, which succeeds in making the idea of a rat in a kitchen incredibly adorable and sweet, instead of the shrieking and panicky reactions typically associated with the discovery of such creature.
Ratatouille, which comes in an endless array of forms, thrives off of fresh summer ingredients—namely eggplant, zucchini and other vegetables like summer squash or bell peppers. Some recipes will have you thinly slice the vegetables and layer them in a baking dish (which, as my sister suggested, would be great with some ground lamb in between), to slowly roast in the oven. But I'm going to go with another one-pot option, and that's making it all in the skillet on a stovetop.
When you take a look at the recipe, you might be wonder why I elected to use canned tomatoes, rather than taking advantage of the fresh summer varieties currently in season. Well, the answer is that I wanted it to be a little saucier, so that I could finish the chicken in the pan. You can always add halved cherry tomatoes or diced plum tomatoes to the skillet if you want an extra kick of fresh flavor or texture. One tip to keep in mind is to cut the vegetables as small and as uniformly as possible so that they can cook evenly throughout.
You can also go wild with the herbs you use, whether fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary, or parsley—just add those with the onions for some extra flavor. Finishing it with fresh chopped basil is a great way to give the dish a summer feel. For an untraditional twist, add a grating of parmesan. Even better, when the dish is nearly complete, toss in some raw summer corn cut right off the cob for a touch of sweetness and a nice textural crunch that will contrast with the softness of the vegetables.
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