Ratatouille

It would not be summer without ratatouille and everyone has his or her favorite.  This one is mine and whether it is better or worse than any other recipe, I don’t know.  What I do know is that it connects me to the wonderful cookbook from which it comes, Lulu’s Provencal Table by Richard Olney.  Be warned, this is not your quick and easy (well, it is fairly easy) ratatouille, but it is well worth the effort. — Jason Adams

{Recipe after the jump.}

Ingredients:

  • About 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet onions, halved and sliced thin
  • 6 garlic cloves, pealed and sliced thin
  • 1 pound zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ¾” sections
  • 1 pound eggplant – unpeeled and cut into ¾” dice
  • 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered
  • 3 large bell peppers (1 green, 1 red and 1 yellow), peeled, seeded and cut lengthwise into narrow strips, juices reserved
  • Bouquet garni of 2 small sprigs each of thyme, and 2 bay leaves, tied with kitchen string
  • Salt, pepper

Preparation:

In a large pot, warm up 3 tbsp. of olive oil on very low heat and slowly cook the onions for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1 tsp. of salt, the sliced garlic, and the zucchini. Continue to cook on the low heat, stirring occasionally.

While your onions cook, cool the eggplant. In a sauté pan, heat up 3 tbsp. of olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the eggplant for a couple of minutes, sprinkling half a teaspoon of salt on top, then add another 1 or 2 tbsp. of olive oil as needed and flip the eggplant and cook for several minutes until they are softened. Add the eggplant to the stew pot with the onions, leaving remaining oil in the skillet.

Also while your onions cook, peel and de-seed the tomatoes. To peel the tomatoes, score an X in the skin on the bottom of the tomato, and place in boiling water for 30 seconds.

Let cool, and the skin should slip off quite easily.

Quarter the tomatoes and use a finger to remove most of the seeds. Cook the tomatoes in the pan you sautéed the eggplant in.

If the skillet is fairly dry, add another tbsp. of olive oil, get the pan fairly hot with high heat, and then add the tomatoes and half a teaspoon of salt. Sauté, shaking the pan and stirring the tomatoes until much of the liquid has evaporated, but before the tomatoes disintegrate. Empty the skillet into the stew pot.

Char your sweet peppers on the grill, or if no grill is available, directly on a gas flame. Place the peppers in a paper bag and let cool for several minutes.

Peel of the charred skins, and de-seed, being careful to preserve the juices from the inside of the peppers. Reserve those juices (sans seeds), and slice the peppers lengthwise into narrow strips; reserve.

Add the peppers and the reserved juices, and immerse the bouquet garnis.

Cook at a low simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours stirring occasionally and lowering the heat as the liquid reduces. Cook until all the excess liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are covered in a syrupy sauce.

Remove from the heat, taste for salt and pepper. Let cool, and then refrigerate overnight. Let the ratatouille come to room temperature the next day before serving.

Additional Lulu ideas: Stir in some pitted black olives, some diced celery, and/or some more olive oil right before serving.

Wine Pairing: Well, of course, I could recommend a rosé or you could break the bank and have a red from Domaine Tempier. But just as delicious would be Cuvée Counoise from Domaine de Monpertuis. This used to be about $10, but you can still find it for usually less than $15.

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