When most people look at the ingredients in ratatouille—tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, and bell peppers—they undoubtedly start to picture some sweeping expanse of the south of France. You really can't blame them; indeed, that's the region where this humble and satisfying dish was born. (Plus, you know, the dish is freaking amazing.) But when I see them, my mind wanders elsewhere.
Turns out that every single one of those ingredients except the eggplant came from the New World, which means that before any French cook got his or her hands on the raw ingredients, they were probably served with corn tortillas. And thus was born the idea of ratatouille tacos.
The idea was to sauté the zucchini, eggplant, onion, and bell pepper, and then introduce a simple tomato sauce to the mix. I couldn't help myself, and added a half a chipotle pepper for a little background heat, but it's definitely not overwhelming. The sauce and ingredients cook for a few minutes, so that the liquid reduces and starts to coat the vegetables. To serve, all you need are some warm corn tortillas, some salty cotija cheese, and a squeeze of lime. The result is a fresh a chunky taco filling, which utilizes the best of what is currently in season.
- Yield:serves 3 to 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 chipotle chili en adobo
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 2 medium zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
- 2 Japanese eggplants, chopped into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
- 12 corn tortillas, warmed
- Cotija cheese
- 2 limes, quartered
Combine tomatoes and chipotle in a blender and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet over high heat until smoking. Add the zucchini and shake to form a single later. Season with salt. Cook without moving until well browned on the bottom, about two minutes. Flip the pieces and cook until browned on second side, another two minutes. Transfer the zucchini to a large bowl and set aside. Add another 1/2 tablespoon oil to skillet, heat until smoking, and cook eggplant in the same manner. Add to bowl with zucchini.
Add remaining tablespoon oil and heat until smoking. Add onion and bell pepper, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until pieces are browned but not too soft, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, stir well, and cook until very fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds. Add blended tomato sauce. Stir occasionally, and cook until it has thickened slightly, but still has some liquid. Add zucchini and eggplant. Stir well, and cook until all the vegetables are fully softened, three to five minutes longer, reducing heat if tomato sauce threatens to burn. Season with more salt and pepper as necessary.
Serve immediately with tortillas, cheese, and lime.