For me, Ratatouille is one of those dishes that totally captures the taste, feelings, and memories of summer. Um, besides ice cream, of course. It utilizes the best of the best of in-season summer vegetables, the number of components are not many, and while the ingredients by themselves are humble, the end result is quite spectacular. This time, I tried out a recipe from Julia Child’s classic tome on French cooking, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Feel free to substitute with whatever herb/s you have. Her original recipe calls for parsley, but I only had basil. I’ve also seen this dish cooked with thyme and rosemary, so go with your heart! Serve this with a cool glass of white and a slice of grilled bread brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.
Adapted from Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ lb thinly sliced onion
2 thinly sliced bell peppers (red, green or yellow)
2 cloves garlic, mashed
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb firm, ripe tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons minced basil (or parsely or thyme & rosemary)
1. Cut the eggplant in half and slice further into 1 inch wide pieces. Cut zucchini into similarly sized pieces. *Note that original recipe calls for peeling the eggplant. I don’t usually do this, especially if you’ve got nice, organic ones. A lot of the nutrients and the fiber of vegetables are in the skin.
2. Place eggplant and zucchini in a large bowl and toss with salt. Let sit 30 minutes, drain, and dry each slice on a clean towel.
3. Heat 12” skillet with olive oil and saute eggplant and zucchini one layer at a time on each side until browned, about 1 minute per side. Remove and set aside
4. Saute onions and peppers in olive oil in the same skillet until softened. Mix in the garlic and season to taste. Lay the tomatoes over the onions and peppers, season with salt and pepper, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes over low heat, until the tomatoes have rendered their juices. Baste with the tomato juice. Cook further, uncovered, until most of the juice has evaporated.
5. In a heat proof casserole, lay 1/3 of the tomato mixture on the bottom, sprinkle with basil, and layer over with eggplant mixture. Repeat layers, ending with tomatoes and basil. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
6. Uncover, tip the casserole, and baste with juices. Raise the heat and cook uncovered for another 15 minutes, basting every so often. Careful not to scorch the bottom.
You can make this ahead and heat just before serving or you can also serve it cold.