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A Classic Dish That is a Vegan Delight: Ratatouille

Ratatouille (RAT-ə-TOO-ee)

NO, not that dumb ass movie everyone loves…Ratatouille Niçoise, a classic French vegetable stew that’s very misunderstood. Really, it’s the bounty of the summer harvest, how can you go wrong? I’ve always loved its many flavors, textures, and colors.


The dish it seems originated the town of Nice, in southeast France; but now can found throughout the region. Ratatouille is a ragout very typical of Provencal cookery, the word is derived from the French touiller (to mix or stir).


The great thing about Ratatouille is it can be a main dish or served on the side, try it with sautéed chicken breasts, grilled pork chops, or even toss it with some freshly cooked pasta… I would do it with some penne or mostaccioli--just sayin.


Cooks prefer to sauté all of the vegetables separately and then combine at the end. We’re not going to do that, mainly because it’s a pain in ass. And to be quite honest, the end result is the exact same.


As always, use the best quality ingredients you can find. Everything will always turn out that much better!! We are going to do this in two steps, not twenty so it will be a little bit faster. Try to use a heavy bottom pan, enameled cast iron Dutch oven works also.


Cooking Class with Carol


Things to Consider

If you are using fresh tomatoes from your summer harvest, and I'm sure you'll have plenty of them, you may want to remove the skin of the tomatoes by dropping them into boiling water.

Prepare an ice bath-- ice cubes and cold water to submerge the cooked tomatoes in when they are done boiling. This will stop the cooking process and they will not overcook when with the other vegetables. Score the tops by making a cross on them (this will make it easier to peel when then are cooked). Drop in salted boiling water for one minute. Check the skins to see if they are peeling away from the flesh. Remove from boiling water and submerge in ice bath. Allow to cool. Peel and rough chop according to the directions in the recipe below.




INGREDIENTS


2 Medium size eggplants

2 medium size zucchinis

1 Large onion

2 Sweet peppers pick a color

2 Cloves of garlic minced

3 to 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Good quality olive oil

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Red Pepper Flakes

Fresh Mushrooms white or cremini (optional)

4 to 5 medium size tomatoes (peeled and seeded) canned plum tomatoes could be substituted

Chopped Fresh Parsley for garnish


1. First prep all of your vegetables. Peel the eggplant and cut into large chunks, not too small- we don’t want the eggplant to breakdown too much during the cooking process. Next, place the eggplant in a bowl; top with cold water and about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt. Let the eggplant soak for 15 minutes, this will draw out some of the bitterness and moisture. Drain in colander and pat dry with paper towels, set aside for now.






Cut the zucchini in half-moons, not too thin; I believe I included a video.



I choose to use red and orange sweet peppers, mostly because of the color; you can use all green peppers. Or a combination, doesn’t matter…They all taste the same.




Peel and seed the tomatoes, rough chop them. Refer to the Things Considered to learn about prepping the tomatoes for peeling.







Peel and cut the onion, I cut mine into julienne.




Chop the garlic, fine as you can or use a garlic press; whichever is easier for you.


Now, I embellished this recipe with the addition of mushrooms, that’s the great thing about cooking! If you find a recipe that you like, add your own spin. Sometimes it works out. Eh, sometimes it doesn’t. Can’t learn if you don’t try!! I used cremini mushrooms in this dish, half or quarter them depending on size.


2. Heat your cooking vessel on high, add 2 to 3tbls of olive oil to pan. Turn your heat down to med/high add your eggplant to pan, sauté for about 10 to 15 minutes. Salt and pepper eggplant. Stir occasionally, you want a slight brown color. Remove from pan and transfer to plate.



Since the eggplant will soak up all of the oil, add 2 to 3tbls olive oil to pan. Bring the pan back to temperature, add red pepper flakes ½ tsp, more if you like it spicy. Add the rest of your vegetables to the pan, along with chopped garlic, sprigs of thyme.



Stir every couple of minutes, trying to remove any stuck-on bits from bottom of pan (flavor bits my friends). Cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, turn heat down to med/low and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.



Test the zucchini and peppers, you don’t want them to be complete mush. TASTE... does it need salt or pepper? If so, add some.


Almost done, drizzle your Ratatouille with about 2tbls of olive oil (this is the time if you have an 'anointing' olive oil to use it. If not, just your regular cooking extra virgin olive oil will do. Its raw flavor will bring out the flavor of the vegetables in a way you never thought possible)


Add your chopped parsley That’s it; you did great!!


BTW, I pulled this recipe from “LAROUSSE GASTRONOMIQUE “, This was my go-to reference book when I was a professional Chef. The great thing about this book is, it contains 1000’s of recipes, but also it gives you a history of the food, where it came from, all that good stuff. Would highly recommend it, especially if you’re an aspiring cook or a foodie!


Like I said before, Ratatouille can be your dinner or serve with a meat dish. Make sure you have some crusty French bread to sop up those delicious juices and a glass of red wine…Pinot Noir is perfect with this classic French dish; I was thinking of maybe grilled bone-in pork chops with a whole grain mustard cream sauce. Sounds good, doesn’t i.Always remember, when cooking. Use your imagination, don’t be afraid to take chances, cook from your heart and always do it with Love! Till next time... Mark

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