Before the movie, no one had ever heard of Ratatouille, and still, the word probably only conjures images of a rat in a chef's hat in most people's minds.
But I grew up on Ratatouille and know what the REAL stuff is; a delicious, thick melange of vegetables, stewed and cooked down in wine. Mom would throw in everything from onions and peppers to eggplants and zucchinis, and like most things mashed together in wine and herbs, the finished product was always better than the sum of its parts.
So when I went out in the garden the other day and found, among my usual plethora of zucchini, some ripe eggplants and tomatoes, I knew what I had to do!
- 1 vidalia onion, diced
- 2 to 3 small or 1 large eggplant, peeled+diced
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
- 1 small to medium zucchini, sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
- 2 vine tomatoes, diced
- 1 to 2 tbsp tomato sauce or tomato paste
- 1/4 c white wine
- dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper
- fresh basil, fresh oregano (minced)
Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet then add onions. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the eggplant and once eggplant begins to soften, add the garlic. Throw in your sliced peppers and zucchini, and lastly the tomatoes. Season with dried spices, add the wine, and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed. When liquid is gone and the mixture looks thick, stir in your fresh herbs and the capers, remove from heat, and let sit covered for five minutes or so to let the flavors combine before serving.
This dish goes great with everything from meat to fish, or even over rice as a vegetarian meal in its self.variations: everyone seems to have their own take on ratatouille; some stew it, some bake it...whatever. for me, the essential idea is to cook down vegetables in wine. it should always be herby and should always have SOME tomato, but the veggies are up to you: try adding carrots or summer squash, jalapeno or whatever you have on hand...