My daughter is a great cook. She defies my husband’s theory that good cooks skip a generation. Her talent really came to the forefront after she watched the movie, Julie & Julia, and bought Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Child, et al.
The rest is, as they say, family legend. She follows directions and makes a mess in the kitchen, two things I rarely do; but, because the end result is so delicious, I decided to give the quintessential cookbook a try.
It’s been a long time since I made ratatouille, but I remember being surprised at how flavorful it was. Now that eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomato are abundant, I wanted to give it another go.
When I read through the recipe, I made mental note of a couple of things. First, the recipe calls for sauteing each vegetable separately, then layering. Second, the process of cooking and preparing the tomatoes with their juices was laborious. This meant lots of mess, lots of oil, and lots of time.
I am sure that following the directions would have produced a perfect ratatouille; but, forever acknowledging that I am far from perfect, I made my adaptations to fit my style.
First thing to go was the sauteing. I decided to grill most of the veggies (except the onion, which I thought would be more flavorful fried in olive oil). Also, I used yellow and orange sweet peppers. My stomach doesn’t like green peppers anymore!
Next, the tomato prep was exchanged for canned tomato puree. You can also use canned, chopped tomatoes with their juice.
Finally, I prefer putting stews in the oven rather than on the stove. I’m sure that’s because I’m always trying to multi-task (with variable success).
The result was excellent. Even my husband, who doesn’t care for zucchini and hates eggplant, commented that the dish was “very good.” You probably don’t fully understand how significant that complement is, so let me assure you that it is noteworthy!
Ratatouille With (Mostly) Grilled Veggies
Inspired by Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Child, et al.
Equal amounts of: eggplant, zucchini, and sweet peppers (about 1 lb. of each)
2 chopped, yellow onions
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 – 28 oz. can chopped, peeled tomatoes (undrained) or tomato puree
Sea Salt and ground black pepper
about 1/2 c. chopped, fresh parsley
optional – shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese
Prepare the eggplant, zucchini, and sweet peppers for the grill by slicing into appropriate size pieces. I leave the skin on my eggplant. That choice is up to you.
Grill the veggies until they are just tender enough to pierce with a fork. Remove to a platter. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Next, heat a medium skillet with some olive oil and saute the chopped onion. Cook until just translucent. Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic.
In a large casserole, layer 1/3 of the tomatoes or puree, parsley, onions, and grilled veggies (in that order). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat the layers 2 more times. Top the dish with a drizzle of olive oil.
Cover and bake at 350°F about 1 hour. Uncover and cool a bit before serving. If desired, top each serving with freshly shaved Parmesan or Romano cheese.
As with many stews, this dish is even better when reheated!
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