From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Ratatouille and I have a troubled past. I love the stuff, but hate the time and effort required to make classic versions of the dish. Until recently, I used Julia Child's recipe and while it makes a wonderful ratatouille, its assembly calls for separate browning of all the ingredients and that, quite frankly, is a bother. As it happened, I needed a vegan addition to my French-themed Christmas Eve menu. While ratatouille was a seamless fit, I had neither the time nor space for Julia's version, so I decided to give Alice Waters' take on the dish a try. Ratatouille originated in the area around present day Nice. The dish was first made to use the abundance of vegetables that were available at the end of summer. The vegetables were tossed and cooked in the heady olive oil of the region and eventually a formula of sorts codified preparation of the dish. Interestingly, the word ratatouille actually comes from the French term "touiller," which means to toss food. These days, the vegetables are available year round and serving ratatouille is no longer dependent on the season. It makes a great side dish, and when served with rice or polenta it becomes a terrific meatless entree. Alice Waters' version does not require separate browning of the vegetables and it comes together quite easily. If you have not already done so, I hope you will give this lighter, fresher version of the dish a try. The basil gives the dish a uniquely fresh flavor that I know you will enjoy. Here, thanks to Food52, is how her version of the stew is made.
Alice Waters' Ratatouille...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Food52
1 medium or 2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 bunch of basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine + 6 basil leaves, chopped
Pinch of dried chili flakes
2 sweet peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt to taste
1) Toss eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
2) Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Pat eggplant dry, add to pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to bottom of the pan. Remove the eggplant when done and set aside.
3) In the same pot, pour in 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
4) Add garlic, basil bouquet, dried chili flakes, and a bit more salt. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in summer squash. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes.
5) Cook for 10 minutes longer, then stir in eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all its flavors, and adjust the seasoning with salt. Stir in the chopped basil leaves and more extra virgin olive oil, to taste. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6 to 8.
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