Friday, April 25, 2008

Ratatouille (not the mouse!)

Dear Daughter and I watched the movie, Ratatouille, last month and absolutely loved it! So, that got me thinking about how long it had been since I made this delicious vegetable stew from the south of France. When I first became Orthodox, it was one of my main go-to lenten recipes - a real staple. I made it probably once a week or so for years, but when we moved here 11 years ago, Mom took over the kitchen and I think I've only made it two or three times since then.

Last week there were beautiful eggplants at the new Kroger where I shop, the first eggplants of the season, so I splurged and bought one. (HOW I LOVE THAT NEW KROGER!) I admired its perfection for a day, that's how beautiful it was! Then I decided to make ratatouille.

Here is my tried and true, favorite recipe:

2 medium eggplants cut in 1" cubes
8 tomatoes cut into eighths
4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 green peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1" squares
2 onions roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 tsp dry thyme
2 bay leaves
1 - 2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 C dry white wine
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil

Over medium heat, put the olive oil into a heavy bottomed dutch oven. When the oil is hot, saute the onions, garlic, zucchini and peppers for a about 5 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Add in the eggplant, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and wine. Stir well, then bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and buttery, and the flavors are well melded.

I have often made this in the crockpot. Simply place the ingredients into the crockpot in this order: eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers. Lightly salt and pepper each layer, and sprinkle a little bit of onion, garlic and thyme on each layer as well. Bury the bay leaves and pour the wine over all. Cover tightly, set heat to med and let it cook all day, at least eight hours.

I have often made this in the 8 qt. pressure cooker as well. Layer the ingredients as for the crockpot. Lock the lid into place and bring to 15 lbs pressure. Cook for exactly 10 minutes and reduce the heat quickly according the manufacturer's directions.

This smelled so yummy as it was cooking, that it woke DD up from her apres-school nap! She wanted potatoes, so I made some garlic mashed potatoes and served the ratatouille on top, a la Vegan with a Vengance Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy which we dearly love and eat often.

There are a million variations on this theme. You might notice from the photo above that there are no visible peppers. Well, I didn't have any peppers, and it was still yummy! Sometimes I put in mushrooms, or during Lent, I might put in a can of drained chickpeas for the protein. Add some potatoes, change the thyme to oregano, drizzle olive oil over the finished dish and you have Greek briami. Add the potatoes, omit the oregano and the thyme and replace it with a handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped, and you have ciambotta from southern Italy, where my people are from.

I've served this over noodles and in bowls with crusty bread for dipping. I've simmered most of the liquid off, lightly mashed the veggies, and used it as dip and as a topping for crostini. It makes a wonderful filling for a quiche. There is no end to what you can do with the leftovers, if you're lucky enough to actually have leftovers!

No matter where in the world you are from, or where in the world you are, you will enjoy Ratatouille, and all its variations!


Mimi said...

Oh, I like ratatouille too! Yum.

And, I agree, the movie was cute.

missingbecheery said...

Mimi, there was something extra yummy about the mixture of the mashed potatoes with the ratatouille. I think I might serve it that way from now on. Try it and let me know what you think, ok?


Mimi said...

I will indeed! I'm all about mashed potatoes!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this recipe. I'm slowly coming to embrace Orthodoxy and these weekly fasts are always difficult, spiritually and physically. I'm looking forward to making it tomorrow. Again, thanks; God keep you.