Is there a better summer dish than ratatouille? The Provençal classic makes use of some of summer's best bounty—tomatoes, eggplant, and zucchini—for an elegant, simple stew that can be served at any temperature, any time of day. The version in Clotilde Dusoulier's new book, The French Market Cookbook, is made as a tian, or casserole, with paper-thin slices of vegetables, à la Ratatouille (the movie). And while it looks far more elegant than its pot-stewed cousins, this tian is not much more difficult to make, as long as you've got a mandolin handy. If not, just think of this as a good excuse to sharpen your knives and practice your slicing skills.
Why I picked this recipe: Do I really need a reason to make ratatouille in August?
What worked: With such a simple preparation, it really pays to use the best produce you can find. Boy, do these vegetables shine with just a little herbs de Provence, garlic, olive oil, and the gentle heat of the oven.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: Ideally, you should use eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes that are all roughly the same width. (Smaller varieties of eggplant like Japanese work well here.) That said, I couldn't pass up the colorful round heirloom tomatoes at the market, even though they were a bit bigger in diameter than the other vegetables. Still, the final dish was totally gorgeous.
Reprinted with permission from The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen by Clotilde Dusoulier. Copyright 2013. Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- Fine sea salt
- 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) small eggplants
- 3 teaspoons herbes de Provence or a mix of dried thyme, rosemary, basil, and/or oregano
- 1 1/3 pounds (600 g) medium zucchini
- 1 3/4 pounds (800 g) plum tomatoes
- Olive oil for cooking
- 2 small yellow onions (4 1/4 ounces (120 g) each), finely sliced
- 8 fresh sage leaves, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
An hour before you plan to cook, salt the eggplants to remove any trace of bitterness: using a mandolin slicer or very sharp knife, cut the eggplants crosswise into 1/8-inch (3 mm) rounds. Put them in a colander, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, and toss to coat. Let rest for 1 hour to allow some of the moisture to be drawn out of the slices. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the herbes de Provence.
Cut the zucchini and tomatoes crosswise into 1/8-inch (3 mm) rounds. Place in two separate bowls and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon of the herbes de Provence.
Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C).
Lightly oil an 8×10-inch (20×25 cm) glass or ceramic baking dish. Scatter the sliced onions evenly over the bottom. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a touch of olive oil.
Arrange a row of overlapping tomato slices along one side of the dish. Pack them in tightly so that they are almost upright. Sprinkle with a little sage and garlic. Follow with a row of overlapping eggplant slices and then a row of zucchini slices, sprinkling each with a little sage and garlic as you go. Repeat the pattern until you’ve filled the dish and used up all the vegetables, packing the rows of vegetables together very tightly. If you have vegetables remaining at the end, slip them among their peers to flesh out the rows that seem to need it.
Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil, cover loosely with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 425°F (220°C) and bake for another 30 minutes.
Remove the foil and bake until the vegetables are tender and the tips of the vegetable slices are appealingly browned, about another 30 minutes. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled.