From the Kitchen of Engrid Winslow
Ratatouille screams to me of summer and there are dozens of ways to make it. The only real essentials are tomatoes, onion, eggplant and zucchini cooked down into a stew and seasoned with salt and pepper. It is delicious as a vegetarian main dish and can be served hot, room temperature, or even cold. You can also top it with cheese, add chunks of chicken and serve it over rice, or roll it up in a lettuce leaves or a tortilla. It can be cooked in a crockpot, baked or stewed. Here is a “classic” preparation followed by a few variations for you to play with. You can learn more about the history of this dish here.
Serves 5 to 6
3 TBL olive oil 3 medium tomatoes, chopped or 14 oz. canned
2 medium onions, chopped 2 large crushed cloves of garlic
1 medium eggplant, cubed in 1” chunks 1 medium green bell pepper, in 1” chunks
5-6 medium zucchini, sliced 1 medium red bell pepper, in 1” chunks
½ cup chopped fresh parsley ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
½ tsp salt 2 TBL tomato paste
¼ tsp pepper 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese (optional)
In a 4-5 Quart pot, heat olive oil and add garlic, eggplant, peppers and onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring often until onions are crisp-tender (about 5 minutes). Stir in zucchini, tomatoes, parsley and basil. Heat to boiling, then reduce to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove cover, season with salt and pepper and stir in tomato paste. Continue cooking, uncovered, for another 10 minutes. Serve as is or over hot cooked rice. Top with a sprinkling of cheese.
Make it Middle Eastern by omitting the basil and cheese and stirring in the following spices when you add the zucchini and tomatoes:
½ tsp ground cumin ½ tsp turmeric ¼ tsp coriander
Change up the vegetables in the classic recipe or just add more. Some favorites are corn, peas and beans, or other summer squash such as patty pan.
Make it Italian: Melt a couple of anchovies into the oil along with the garlic and tomatoes. This adds a layer of umami flavors that is quite good. Then add a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar just before serving.
Consider serving it with a different grain besides rice. Quinoa, farro, couscous and others are a delicious and very healthy twist.