Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ratatouille- For the Cook with No Time

These photos show Ratatouille, a stew of tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini, used as a condiment on pasta, as an omelet filling, and cooked into scrambled eggs. Good service for a dish meant as a vegetable side.

I did not use a recipe to make Ratatouille. The concept seemed obvious once I knew what vegetables went into it. And it did not suffer from my lack of directions.

After the fact, I went to Julia Child and to Richard Olney, to see what they recommended.

Happy are those fortunate enough to make their avocation their vocation. They have time. They can saute each vegetable separately. They can layer them perfectly in a casserole and be confident enough to serve it to a Frenchman, knowing he will not despise it. I have little time. I work, and my avocations get what I can chisel out of tiredness and a few hours. I envy people with time, and if I live to 65 I may finally have some. Until then I will make Ratatouille my own way, for I consider it good.

My Ratatouille does not go in the oven. It is stewed in a heavy pot on top of the stove for two hours until the vegetables melt together. And every day the left over sits in the refrigerator makes it taste better. Then I add it to everything. I put it on angel hair pasta, grate some Parmesan over it and carry it in to work. I look forward to it all evening.

The only vegetable I cook apart is the yellow onion, for one of my laws of cooking is to never add a raw onion to anything except salsa and salads. Saute the onion in olive oil. Sweat it with some sea salt and tend it till it is soft and golden.

I do not salt my zucchini or my eggplant either. I do not jail them in a colander waiting for their wateriness to seep away. Extra juice in the stew can be reduced later on the stove top.

1 eggplant

3 small zucchini

1 large yellow onion

3 or 4 cloves of garlic

1 big bell pepper, any color

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes- I use Muir Glen Fire roasted

1 1/2 tbs red wine vinegar

Sea salt to taste

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

Olive oil- enough to saute the onions and a tablespoon or so added to the stew.

I have already told you what to do with the peeled, diced onion. When it is sauteed add it to the pot. Add the tomatoes, the seeded pepper(diced )then the diced eggplant and zucchini. Add the olive oil, the herbs, and some sea salt. Salt to taste and keep tasting, for this dish is improved by salt. Add the vinegar and the diced or crushed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil for a few minutes over medium high heat ,then reduce to low medium and cover the pot. Let it stew for at least 90 minutes, though 2 hours would be better. Then if there is too much liquid, take off the pot lid and let it reduce itself for a few minutes over medium heat. Or you could drain it off, reduce it in another pan and add it back to the stew. Do not throw it down the sink. If you have a beagle, he would like it. And do not forget to taste as you go along. For more salt, perhaps for more herbs.

This recipe will serve a small table full of people, or one person for at least four days. Grilled lamb chops or roast chicken would be good with it, for it is a country dish from Provence and the South of France.

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