Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Ratatouille

I'm sure everyone knows this classic French veggie dish through a certain little animated movie about a particularly charming rat with a penchant for fine food. But how many of you have actually tried to make it? It's not hard, I can promise you that. The literal translation of the word "ratatouille" is something along the lines of "to mix" and that's pretty much all the recipe consists of. I've played around with several variations, but this super simple, streamlined version is my favorite so far. It's a perfect summer dish, composed of all the best, in-season vegetables cropping up this time of year, including a couple of sweet, heirloom tomatoes. I like my ratatouille a bit soft and stew-like, but if you prefer yours firmer, just reduce the simmering time a bit. Also, make sure to save some to eat the next day--a lot of ratatouille loyalists insist that it's always better a day after it's made. The recipe below will make a nice dinner for 4. xo

Summer Ratatouille
1 large or 2 medium eggplant
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

Trim the eggplant and cut it into 1-inch cubes. If the eggplant is large, soft or especially seedy, sprinkle the cubes with salt, put in a colander and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Rinse, drain and pat dry.

Put the oil in large skillet and turn heat to medium. When hot, add the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 15 minutes.

Add the zucchini and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and keep cooking until the tomatoes begin to break down, another few minutes. Turn the heat to low, partially cover the skillet and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, garnish with the herb if desired, and serve immediately, at room temperature, or chilled the next day.