One of my favorite dishes to make is an authentic Provençal ratatouille. It fills the kitchen with the delicious smell of garlic, onions and aromatic herbs and simmers into a savory stew. Purists cook each ingredient separately and then combine them together to keep the unique flavors intact but I cook them together. On the second and third days, the individual flavors “marry” into one harmonious and complex flavor profile with all sorts of nuances. The key to getting the best flavors is by using a quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and the freshest ingredients possible, preferably organic. Almost everything you need for this dish can be found at your local farmer’s market. Here are some selection tips:
Eggplant. Select medium sized eggplants that are firm, heavy, and have dark glossy skin.
Zucchini. You want small, young zucchini. Make sure you can still see a fresh green stem at the end.
Peppers. Use brightly colored red, yellow, or orange peppers, or a mix of them. Select firm peppers that don’t have any soft spots.
Onions. Yellow onions or the sweet varieties work well in this dish.
Tomatoes. Select small to medium sized vine-ripened tomatoes that aren’t mushy.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon basil
- 1 teaspoon marjoram or oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon rosemary
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 2 medium zucchini, cubed
- 2 medium bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- black pepper
- fresh minced parsley for garnish
- Heat olive oil in a deep pan or Dutch oven. Add garlic, onion and bay leaf and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- Add eggplant, salt, herbs and stir. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until eggplant is soft.
- Add zucchini, bell peppers, black pepper and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 10 more minutes, or until zucchini and bell peppers are tender.
Serve alone, over quinoa, pasta or with a warm crusty baguette to soak up the savory juices. It tastes wonderful warmed up but can also be served cold which is especially nice in the summer. A mixed green salad with fresh herbs and champagne vinaigrette complements nicely… and don’t forget a side of green lucques olives. Bon appétit!