I have been obsessed with ratatouille since I saw the movie by the same name in 2007. Loved everything about it, the animation, the music, the city and the sentimentality of a rat who outwits a food critic with a simple dish that reminds him of his mother. I must have seen the movie half a dozen times and always imagined that some day I would make the dish. So, when a friend shared a recipe that was sent to her by her friend in Nice recently and since Spring is here with the promise of even more colorful vegetables on the way, it seemed to be a sign to finally do it! The recipe is in french but she graciously translated it.
This recipe is lighter on tomato than the ones I have come across before. I am very happy with that. Particularly, the addition of canned tomatoes that some other recipes call for brings an intensity and sweetness that can take over. I upped the garlic content though. It also called for a lot of peeling which I did selectively. I peeled the tomato and peppers (I smoked the peppers over an open flame. This made the skin easy to remove and added a smoky flavor to the base which was delicious!). For the eggplant and zucchini, I like the way the skin holds the vegetables as they have a lot of liquid and tend to disappear into the base if peeled. Another change I made was that I cooked the dish in the oven to develop the flavor more. The original recipe was a stovetop one. It is up to you whichever one you prefer. Finally, a mistake on my part was that I added the herbs directly to the dish. Not a good idea. The rosemary was overpowering. I would suggest putting the woody herbs in a muslin pouch that could be removed afterwards as in the recipe. Another option is to add the whole herb stalk to the dish and remove when ready to serve. Other than that, since it is such a delicate dish, be mindful of seasoning to not overwhelm the flavors. All said and done, it turned out pretty damn delicious!
- Tomatoes, 3 peeled
- Red bell pepper, 2 peeled
- Eggplant, 2 thinly sliced
- Zucchini, 3 thinly sliced (a mix of colors if possible)
- Onion, 3 diced
- Garlic, 3 cloves minced
- Hardy herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Prick the tomatoes and drop then in the water. In a matter of seconds, the skin will start curling and coming off.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool down.
- Once cool enough, simply strip away the skin.
- Slice in four parts, discard the hard part in the middle and dice up.
Peeling bell peppers:
- Hold the bell pepper over an open flame with tongs. Be careful.
- Hold each side till the skin burns and is nicely charred.
- Once all sides are done, put aside to cool.
- Once done, hold under running water and gently scrub the skin off with fingers.
- Slice, discard the seeds and stalk and dice up.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees centigrade.
- Separately, add oil to a preheated, heavy pan, followed by the onions.
- Saute onions till they develop brown edges.
- At this point, add garlic and cook a bit more.
- Add the tomatoes, peppers, herb pouch and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook down and mix well till the ingredients are smoothly blended.
- Layer the eggplant and zucchini slices upright till they form a circular pattern in the pot.
- Cover with foil and transfer to the oven to cook for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and let it cook another 15 minutes in the oven to dry it out a bit (the vegetables release a lot of water).
- Remove from heat and serve hot or cold. It is even better the next day! Enjoy.