Hi guys! I am cooking and posting on location from sweaty Minneapolis this week. To celebrate, I made something that took me all day to make. LOLZ. No, it was not too hot, don’t worry. Besides, ratatouille is a summer dish, so it’s a given that it may be warm while you make it. You’ll forget all about it when you take the first bite.
I am in Minnesota for my cousin Steve’s wedding. He is not pictured above, but his mom and dad are. Therese is the smart one NOT holding a squirming child, and Nana’s brother John is standing right above Nana. Do you see Nana on the left? Steve’s wedding was held at a lovely place in Owatonna, Nana’s hometown. Smalltown, USA for sure. I made the usual stops while I was there, the Owatonna Farmer’s Bank, designed by Louis Sullivan, Costa’s Candies, and the Steele County Free Fair. It was all lovely as usual and a nice break from the big city life I lead in Sacramento. (HA HA) I’m in Minneapolis now, taking full advantage of my cousin Tracy’s lovely home and cuddly labrador retriever. Today is my big tourist day. I plan to take the bus to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts then take myself out to dinner. But I might have to dig into some of the ratatouille leftovers first.
The shopping is probably the quickest thing about this recipe. Who knows, you might even have most of this stuff growing in your backyard. You only need to hit up the produce aisle if you already have oil at home.
First, peel your tomatoes. You remember how to do that, right? Boil a small pot of water. Score and ‘x’ on the bottom of the tomato with a knife. Place in boiling water for about a minute or two, flipping over if the water doesn’t cover the whole tomato. Remove and repeat. See how the skin pulls away like that? It makes peeling tomatoes a heck of a lot easier, let me tell you.
Get all the rest of the vegetables ready (except the eggplant, because it turns weird colors when it is exposed to air). You will thank me later that this is all done, even though you will have a bunch of bowls to wash.
Process is where I am deviating from Nana. I have made ratatouille her way and I’ve made it more complicated ways. The best is a combination of the two. It’s all the same ingredients but the order of cooking is different. I like to cook the veggies separately instead of all together. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to–I will provide both sets of instructions. The reason I do it this way is because A) The vegetables tend to stay in one piece better, rather than being a pile of mush; and B) You can taste the individual vegetables, as well as the sum of their parts, because they haven’t turned into a pile of mush. If you divide the recipe and are making a very small amount, you can probably get away with combining the vegetables at the beginning because it won’t take so long to cook.
Anyway, cook the veg in stages, adding oil each time. First onion and shallot, adding the garlic at the end. Remove. Add zucchini and yellow squash, cook until just tender then remove. Same with peppers.
You’ll do the same with the eggplant. I didn’t cut up the eggplant until the peppers were about done–you see how on the left it has those brown dots? If you cut them to much in advance, the whole thing turns that weird speckly brown. Weird. Eggplant also absorbs the oil like a sponge, don’t be alarmed. Just stir. If it sticks a little, that is ok too, the tomatoes are going in next and they will help the stuck part come up. Speaking of the tomatoes, I didn’t take a photo, but with them I added thyme and bay leaf. Once the flesh was cooked, I fished the tomatoes out and let the tomato liquid continue to cook until it reduced a little.
Once the liquid was reduced a bit, that’s when I started to add the ingredients back in–in layers. First half of the zucchini and squash, then half of the onion and garlic mixture, then peppers, then eggplant, then the rest of the zucchini, the rest of the onion and the tomato.
I covered the pot for about half an hour, then removed the lid and let it cook for another half hour or so, then stirred it through. At this point, you can serve it or let it come to room temperature and serve it that way. Ratatouille is easily reheated too, if you want to make it early then just reheat for dinner.
I like it with some Parmesan and a crust of bread. Leftovers are well suited to a pile of pasta, on top of toasted bread or straight from the fridge. Bon appetit!