Ratatouille, a vegetable stew from the south of France, is perfect for the harvest season.
A cooked mixture of eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic and basil simmered together in olive oil, it is a tasty example of Mediterranean flavours.
Ratatouille can be served many ways: hot as a vegetable side dish or cold as a salad. If the vegetables are finely chopped, it makes a tasty spread for crackers or fresh sliced baguette as an appetizer. Add a can of chick peas to ratatouille and toss with cooked pasta for a vegetarian pasta toss.
It complements any roast meat including turkey (remember, Thanksgiving is around the corner) and you should always make enough to have as leftovers and serve cold as a luncheon salad the next day.
Ratatouille’s versatility and ease of preparation makes it an ideal recipe for every cook’s repertoire. Enjoy it especially during the autumn when the vegetables are at their best.
When choosing vegetables for this stew, use a medium eggplant free of blemishes and firm to the touch.
Cut off the stem and discard before cutting eggplant into cubes. You can include a mixture of summer squash (yellow zucchini) and the more common green zucchini in this recipe. Choose small, firm squash for best texture and flavour. Feel free to use a variety of coloured peppers in this recipe and if you like a little heat, use a hot pepper to taste. Fresh tomatoes work well but blanch first in boiling water for 30 seconds then dip into cold water to make removing skins easy, then chop. As the season progresses and fresh tomatoes are less plentiful, substitute canned tomatoes. Likewise, use fresh basil while it is plentiful and substitute dry basil later in the season.
1/4 cup (50 mL) olive oil
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) diced onions (about 2)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 eggplant, with skin on, cut into 1/2 inch (1.2 cm) cubes (about 4 cups/ 1 L)
3 small zucchini cut into 1/4 inch (5 mm) slices (about 4 cups/ 1 L)
1 red pepper cut into 1/2 inch (5mm) dice
1 green pepper cut into 1/2 inch (5 mm) dice
1 tbsp (15 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh basil chopped or 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) or use 3 large tomatoes, blanched and skinned
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh parsley, preferably Italian flat leaf, finely chopped
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions; cover and cook about five minutes or until softened.
Stir in garlic and cook about one minute. Stir in eggplant, zucchini, red and green peppers, sugar, basil and tomatoes. Bring vegetables to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20–30 minutes. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes about 8–10 cups. Cover and refrigerate for up to four days. For longer storage, spoon into freezer containers and freeze up to three months.