Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ratatouille Season

Andrew is one of those people who needs to eat frequently, OR ELSE. I once asked him how this worked when he was growing up, with three younger siblings in the house. What was his mom, Mary Helen’s, secret for keeping him satiated without being driven insane?

From what he remembers, he and his sisters were raised primarily on a diet of zucchini and other vegetables that she grew in her garden and cooked into ratatouille. And chicken curry. As the season changed, he began to look forward to the end of zucchini and ratatouille, but his hopes were dashed when he realized that all along she had been freezing enough vegetables that they would never be without the ingredients for ratatouille year-round. 

That is what I think about during zucchini season, which is happening now obviously, and I try my very best to use up every darn last zucchini that hits my counter, despite any objections. It’s not easy! As you probably know, when it rains zucchinis, it pours zucchinis! But, it could be worse, like if the deer hadn't decimated my sad attempt at a vegetable garden a couple weeks ago. Now we're only dealing with the CSA box we receive once a week from the Shumei farm, and that seems like more than enough for the two of us. 

So last night I busted out the Le Creuset pot we inherited from Mary Helen, which is the ideal size for ratatouille. I'm convinced this pot holds the memory of countless splendid ratatouilles past, and makes everything taste better, almost like someone other than me cooked it. I don't have a recipe from Mary Helen unfortunately (ahem...Gnome...hint hint), so I've adapted some from the web instead, and I’m thrilled to report that this latest batch earned Andrew’s seal of approval. He even admitted he liked the eggplant in it, which is notable considering that once, while on a boat sailing to Hawaii, he threw the last remaining eggplant overboard because the captain threatened to serve it two nights in a row (mutiny?). 

Thanks to this one dish, I am finally seeing the light at the bottom of the vegetable drawer. If, like me, you are buried under a mountain (or drowning in a sea—choose your metaphor) of zucchinis, eggplants, and tomatoes, you might want to try this Dori-tested, Andrew-approved recipe:

Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille

~ 2–3 medium zucchinis
~ 2–3 medium Japanese eggplants
1 small onion
2 bell peppers
3 large tomatoes
½ cup red wine
½ cup chicken broth if needed
Herbs d’ Provence (or any variety of herbs of your choice, fresh or dried)
olive oil

Chop zucchini, eggplant, onion, and peppers into bite-size pieces. Toss them in a roasting pan big enough to spread them out with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile boil a pot of water and blanch tomatoes to remove skin.

When the roasting is done, add veggies to a big shallow pot of some sort, turn on medium high heat, add tomatoes, and break up tomatoes with a spoon. Add chicken broth and/or wine gradually till it achieves your desired soupiness. Simmer for about 30 minutes until flavors are blended.

Great with a little parmesan on top, with chicken and rice.


  1. Hey, the rat is back! The only thing I remember is that the cafe had a ratatouille dish, and that was my introduction to it. I was a bit horrified by the eggplant and other mystery vegetables. MH's vegie dishes (the ones from my era) were a lot simpler, just chopped up zucchini and whatever else was around, roasted in the oven and topped with cheese.

    Your recipe sounds epic, I want to try it. When I do the rat, I copy the recipe from the movie, using slices of zucchini, and topping with a thin tomato sauce with garlic and olive oil and a few herbs, and gently cooking in the oven till soft. That movie was good for something!

  2. Thanks Gnome. Geez...that sounds a lot simpler, and is probably just as good (if not better). I'm definitely going to try it! I wish Andrew had paid more attention to MH's techniques when he had the chance. Luckily we have you!