Wouldn’t it be great to gather some vegetables at a farmer’s market and transform them into something tasty without having to wonder if you have “the right recipe”? An oven-roasted selection of zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes make a super-easy, super-versatile melange that is known as “ratatouille”. It makes a great side veggie for a nice piece of fish or grilled chicken, but I especially like it aside fried eggs.
Most recipes for ratatouille call for slow, stovetop cooking and a seemingly exact ratio of ingredients. Hit the basics of eggplant, squash, tomatoes and onion and you will have a hit no matter what the combination. I saw the little eggplants, above, at my farmer’s market stand and had to make something with them. I tried to remember what else I needed for ratatouille, added a couple zucchini and bell peppers in my bag and hoped for the best with my pantry at home. I knew I had an onion, and I had to fake it with the tomatoes (as you’ve probably noticed, it still isn’t tomato season — I used organic cherry tomatoes), but the result was reminiscent of a Provencal country lunch, right there in my own kitchen after a day at the office.
Farmer’s Market Ratatouille
makes about 6 servings
1 large eggplant or a few small ones, chopped (or sliced into circles – good if you have the small eggplants or the long and slender Japanese eggplant)
2 – 3 zucchini, chopped
2 bell peppers (any color but green, unless you really like green ones)
6 – 8 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped or a basket of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 – 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (any combo of rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil), finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1. First off, chop the eggplant into approximate 1 inch pieces (or slices if you have the small ones), place in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with a couple teaspoons salt. This will help the eggplant release some of its liquid — not a required step, but it does improve the quality of the main dish. Anyway! Get this set up first, then chop the remaining veggies. When you’re done chopping, rinse the eggplant and pat dry on a towel.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the remaining veggies and herbs and combine with the eggplant on a large cookie sheet pan with rim or in a 9×13 glass or ceramic “lasagne pan”. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle the salt. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil, stir and continue baking another 30 minutes (1 hour total) or until liquid has evaporated a bit and veggies are beginning to brown. You may want to bake up to 20 more minutes — use your senses and play it by ear a bit.
Kitchen Coach Tips
- Ratatouille keeps great 4 or 5 days in the fridge.
- Serve it as a main dish with a fried egg and a dollop of polenta or with a piece of grilled chicken. The leftovers make a nice warm lunch or side veggie at another dinner.
- Ratatouille is also great served with potatoes — roasted, baked, boiled, you name it. Try it as a filling for a baked sweet potato.