This recipe first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Culinaire Magazine, courtesy Renée Kohlman.
Gardens and markets are bursting with beautifully fresh produce. Tomatoes are hanging off vines, zucchini are (I suspect) multiplying overnight, eggplants gleam, and sweet peppers, those jewels of the garden, are waiting to be transformed into something delicious. We wait all year for this bounty, and if we are lucky, there is a surplus of these garden goods.
Sure, you can be neighbourly and stuff zucchini into mailboxes to help with your personal inventory. I don’t know anyone who would turn down an offering of home-grown tomatoes, but even then, there will come a time when you just have so much, you need to use it up right now. That’s where a dish like ratatouille comes into the picture.
From the French verb “touiller” meaning “to stir up”, Ratatouille originated in the area around present day Nice, as a peasant dish cooked up by farmers. There are various ways to make this comforting dish, but I prefer the method of cooking vegetables separately so they retain their individual taste.
Making ratatouille is a project for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s an easy dish, and does take some time to prepare the vegetables and cook them separately. But once they are all in the pot, mingling away, you just sit back and relax and give the pot a bit of a stir every 20 minutes or so. The longer you cook it, the more of a silky stew it will become. For firmer vegetables, cook it for less time.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to eat ratatouille the day it’s made, I prefer it warmed up the next day, after the flavour has developed.Serve warm in a bowl, drizzled with your finest olive oil. Have a hunk of good bread at the ready. You may also toss it with hot pasta, spoon it over polenta, bake eggs in it, and it makes a mighty fine pizza topping. The possibilities are endless!
This recipe makes enough to feed a hungry crowd, still with some left over to freeze. Now, isn’t this better than unloading all that zucchini onto unsuspecting neighbours?