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Ratatouille (rat-eh-too-ey)

May 15, 2009

a big bowl for dinner, with all the fixings

Yesterday I noticed a pattern–all of my recent posts have been baked goods. Although I’m pretty into baking, and am not (as I’m sure you’ve gathered) on a low-carb diet, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen with the oven off.  This ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes of all time and is the perfect antidote to any string of less-than-exemplary nutrition.  This Provençal dish is in essence, veggie city. If you search the web, you’ll find many variations of the dish, but really, you don’t need a recipe.  What you do need is a bit of olive oil, garlic and a boat-load of veggies.  If all you did was preheat a large pot or dutch oven with the oil, dump in remaining ingredients, and cook slowly until all the vegetables were tender, you’d have a darn tasty meal.

A few notes about my recipe:

1) I added pancetta.  You might ask, “Why, Hilary, did you go ahead and ruin a perfectly vegetarian dish with some cured Italian meat?” And I would answer, “Because it’s incredibly delicious.”  In all seriousness, this could absolutely be omitted and the olive oil alone would suffice, but it is so good.

2) I used quite a large eggplant.  This isn’t an unusual ratatouille ingredient, but nonetheless, I want to underscore its importance.  Almost dissolving in the stew, the eggplant imparts a nice texture and substantial, meaty taste. True to the open-ended nature of this recipe, you could also omit this ingredient if you’re not an eggplant fan.

3) Chickpeas! These are a great addition, lending protein and some more variation to the texture of the dish.

Ratatouille

olive oil
about 2 tbsp. finely diced pancetta
5 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 finely sliced onion
A multitude of thinly sliced/diced fresh veggies (improvisation welcome):
1 red pepper
2 zucchini
1 yellow squash
2 carrots
fresh mushroom
1 eggplant
roughly chopped spinach
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
2 heaping tbsp. tomato paste
dried herbs/spices to taste (I used 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp. basil, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, and and plenty of salt and black pepper)
optional garnishes/accompaniments: Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, plain whole milk yogurt, croutons, etc.

Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat and film generously with olive oil.  Add pancetta and cook momentarily before adding sliced onions and chopped garlic. Add a good sprinkling of salt.  As onions begin to soften, begin chopping your veggies.  Add the veggies to the pot as you chop, stirring with each addition.  You may add more salt  to taste during this process, which will not only season the dish, but will expedite the softening of the veggies. Once all the veggies have been added, continue to cook until everything is tender, reducing heat if the ingredients begin to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, breaking the tomatoes up with your spoon or spatula. Add tomato paste, chickpeas, and herbs and spices. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered for about 30-45 minutes. Serve hot with lots of freshly grated Parmesan and crusty bread. Cool leftovers and store in the refrigerator for several days.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2010 5:33 am

    I grew up in Provence and am used to eating the most wonderful ratatouille. I would have never thought of cooking it with pancetta but you make it sound so good that I might just have to try it too! Eggplant is my favorite part of the ratatouille, the more, the better! :-)

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