Ratatouille

The first time I heard of ratatouille, I was on a study abroad in London visiting a friend doing her semester in Paris. She signed us up for a French cooking class, which left me wondering what the heck I was going to be able to eat. I had spent enough time in Paris already to know that French food wasn’t exactly welcoming towards vegetarians. But as it turns out, that day, we were cooking ratatouille. Though the dish is now made famous by the animated film, ratatouille is actually a very humble dish that you would seldom see at a restaurant. It’s origins lay in the south of France, where the summer vegetables and herbs used to make it grow abundantly. While ratatouille is great served cold in the summer time, I personally prefer to serve it warm in the winter months. Something about a heaping, steaming bowl of vegetables on top of a generous helping of cous cous just warms me up inside and out.

Though there are quicker ways to make ratatouille, I learned it the traditional way, and so that’s what I’ve outlined. If you want to speed up the process, you may want to consider roasting all the veggies in the oven together.

What You Need:
4 Roma tomatoes
1 large onion
2 small zucchinis
2 bell peppers (use varying colors)
½ of a large eggplant (or a whole Japanese eggplant)
4 cloves of garlic
3-4 sprigs of thyme
14 basil leaves
Handful of parsley
1/3 cup olive oil (approx)
Salt and pepper

What to Do:
Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. While you are waiting for the water to boil, prep your produce. Cut X’s onto the bottom of the tomatoes and set aside. Cut the zucchini lengthwise and chop into ¾ inch pieces. Chop the bell peppers into 1-inch pieces Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Mince the garlic. Slice the onions lengthwise. Roughly chop the parsley and basil.

Once the water comes to a boil, blanch the tomatoes for 1 to 2 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon and let cool slightly on the chopping board. Peel the skin off of the tomatoes and chop roughly.

Sprinkle the eggplant with a pinch of salt and let sit in a colander in the sink to drain for 20 to 30 minutes.

In a large pot, add the tomatoes, parsley, basil, thyme and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Let simmer partly-covered over medium-low heat while you sauté the other vegetables (about 30 minutes). After 30 minutes, turn the heat down to low until you are finished with the other vegetables.

In a pan, cook the onion on medium heat using a teaspoon of olive oil and a small pinch of salt. Cook until tender (8 to 10 minutes). Set aside in a large bowl. To the same pan, add about a tablespoon more oil and cook the bell peppers with a pinch of salt until just tender (about 12 minutes).  Set aside in the same bowl as the onions. Next, lower the heat a bit and add the zucchini to the pan with a bit more oil and salt. Cook for about 8 minutes until just softened and add to the onions and bell peppers. Finally, repeat with the process with the eggplant.

Finally add all the vegetables to the tomatoes and season with freshly ground black pepper. Simmer everything together partly-covered for about 40 minutes, until soft and almost falling apart. Remove the thyme twigs and serve warm with cous cous, rice, bread or pasta.

Note: I like a little bit of heat in my ratatouille, so I added one seeded and chopped jalapeno and a little bit of red crushed pepper to the vegetables right before I simmer everything together.

About the Author

Currently based out of Boston, Jesal is a blogger, freelance writer, yoga enthusiast and lifelong vegetarian who spent four years eating her way through New York City and various other cities around the globe. After answering hundreds of emails and phone calls answering the question, "Where's a cool place I can take my vegetarian friend out to eat" she started Veggiewala to efficiently share her knowledge of the vegetarian food scene with curious carnivores, flexitarians and other vegetarians.