What is ratatouille, exactly?
Ratatouille is a hearty country (rustic) dish from the Provence region of France that is an easy mix of seasonal vegetables, garlic and olive oil. It is also the name of a movie with that cute little rat chef who wows a food critic by making and elevating this simple dish to fine dining standards without immensely "deconstructing" or basically f-ing it up. It is a great side to fish, shellfish and chicken, easy to make and super healthy and wonderfully easy to use as a part of weekly meal prep.
I am writing about ratatouille this week because...well, summer is here and the ingredients are FRESH NOW.
Enter the purple basil. Necessity is the mother of all invention, so they say. In my case, it is also the instigator of inspiration and fond flavour memories. Last week the purple basil came out to play, and this time of year I always have a bunch sitting in water making my kitchen smell really nice. The other items that are fresh and in season NOW are Japanese eggplants (the skinny long ones) and zucchini, and tomatoes. Everything you basically need for a ratatouille.
Traditionally, you cook some onions and garlic and throw some tomatoes in the pot, simmer it a bit, add the chunks of eggplant and zucchini, some red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and finish with some extra virgin olive oil. Stew the whole thing down, don't let it scorch onto the pot and voila!
I don't always like to stand over the stove when I can have 4-6 things all baking and roasting in the oven simultaneously, so this way of making ratatouille may take a bit of less ad-hoc chopping and a bit more arranging, but when it is finished cooking you will gain some serious style points, and who doesn't like that??
Baked Ratatouille (Serves 4-5)
2 Japanese eggplants cut into slices
2 zucchini cut into slices
4-5 small tomatoes or Roma tomatoes also cut into slices
1/2 a medium onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves torn or roughly chopped (optional but a delicious part of this)
1.5 cups of crushed or diced tomato sauce with no junk in it
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
some coconut oil to grease the pan
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a round cake 9" cake pan or casserole or pyrex dish (or pie plate for that matter) with some coconut oil.
2. Pour tomato sauce into bottom of dish, sprinkle onions, garlic and basil on top, a bit of salt and pepper. Then start layering in the eggplant, zucchini and tomato rounds standing up on their sides working from the outside inwards, maybe sliding a few more basil leaves in between as you go.
3. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the vegetables, you don't need to drown them in it, but enough to moisten and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil.
4. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes. Pull out and it is done! Dish it up using a spatula so that you can maintain the integrity of your nicely arranged slices and then use a spoon to pour a bit of the tomato sauce from the bottom of the pan over it...if you are trying to impress someone. If not, then do whatever you need to get it out of the pan, but it shouldn't stick.
This will do 4-5 people as a side for a single meal, or a solo person could use this all week as one of their food prep veggies. I have also been known to toss some in a pan in the morning and heat and crack a couple eggs on top for breakfast. It's wonderful reheated and also not too bad when consumed at room temperature either.
Give baked ratatouille a try now since the vegetables are in season! The flavours all melt together, the basil makes it super summer-like and it is healthy on top of being tasty!!!
Yours in health~ Dawn