What do you make when you’re not in the mood to cook but you have a houseguest and a fridge full of Farmers’ Market produce? This fabulous French Provincial-style summer stew! The traditional tender melding of fresh tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers with garlic, onions, and olive oil was a huge hit with both of us, easy to make, inexpensive, and totally delicious, too. We served it on little rounds of cooked polenta but it would have been just fine on its own in a bowl. Classic Ratatouille is a harvest of good health and colorful antioxidants in a pot.
We found out you don’t have to be a gourmet cook–Disney cartoon rat chef or otherwise–to make this easy meal.
8 – 10 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 large or 4 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 large eggplant, sliced into chunks the same size as the zucchini slices
5 large tomatoes, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Tomato paste, to taste (optional)
Other Add-Ins (your ratatouille won’t be classic with these, but it will be delicious)
Tofu or other protein
Fresh basil and/or thyme
Cubes of cooked polenta (or serve it on polenta rounds, as we did)
1. Heat 5 or 6 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat, add the onions, and saute about 1 minute, until fragrant and softened. Add zucchini and eggplant and saute about 2 minutes, until lightly browned. Add more olive oil as needed if the pan looks dry. Add tomatoes, peppers, and garlic, stirring to combine. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer about 20 minutes, until veggies are cooked through.
2. Take off the lid, add other add-ins, if you like, increase heat to high, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes to evaporate excess liquid, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, add a little tomato paste if using, and stir well.
3. Serve hot, or allow to cool and add a little olive oil before serving.
By Cait Johnson, inspired by Savoring Provence, by Patricia Wells (Weldon Owen, 2002).