When you see the word Ratatouille, do you think of the delicious vegetable stew above?
Or the cute Disney rodent below?
Ratatouille is a perfect end of summer dish…especially for you gardeners who have an abundance of zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and tomatoes.
In spite of its fancy sounding name, Ratatouille is really just a hearty, fresh vegetable stew. Traditionally, ratatouille was served in France as a side dish, however, I like to pair it with some creamy gorgonzola polenta and make a healthful, vegetable filled meal.
Here’s what you need:
Eggplant, Zucchini, Yellow Summer Squash, Red Bell Pepper, Onion, Garlic, Tomatoes (fresh if you have them!), Thyme, Rosemary, Basil, Bay Leaf, Red Pepper Flakes, Olive Oil, White Wine, Tomato Paste (both optional and not pictured), Salt & Pepper.
Chop one small eggplant, 2 small zucchini, 2 small yellow summer squash, and 1 red bell pepper into medium sized pieces – about 1 inch cubes. Try to cut these vegetables all approximately the same size so that they will cook at the same speed. Don’t cut the veggies too small or they will cook away to nothing but mush.
Finely chop one large onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes until tender but not browned.
Add the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and red bell pepper.
Toss in a sprig of fresh rosemary and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. If you only have dried herbs use about 1 teaspoon of rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. Add the chopped garlic, 1 bay leaf, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
For a little more flavor, I like to add about 1/4 cup of dry white wine. This step is optional but good.
If you have fresh tomatoes, chop up about 2-3 cups and add them to the pot. Otherwise, 1 (14 ounce) can of diced tomatoes will do the trick.
Bring the vegetables to a simmer, put a lid on the pot, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender – about 30 minutes.
Note: if you are using fresh tomatoes, or if your ratatouille looks a little watery, take the lid off for the last 10 minute of cooking and stir in 1 Tablespoon of tomato paste to thicken the sauce.
If I’m an a hurry, I serve ratatouille with couscous because it cooks in 5 minutes. However, my favorite pairing for ratatouille is creamy gorgonzola polenta.
Polenta is a coarsely ground cornmeal that is cooked until soft. Despite what the folks at Bob’s say on the bag pictured below, to me polenta is yellow and grits are white. In a pinch, I’ve made polenta with plain cornmeal like I use to make cornbread however, real grit textured polenta cooks up a bit better for a side dish.
All you need is polenta, water, heavy cream, gorgonzola or blue cheese, salt & pepper.
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
Be sure to use a pan with tall sides. Polenta splatters and sputters as it cooks so choose a pan a size or two larger than you would normally use and grab a long handled spoon for stirring.
Once the water is boiling, SLOWLY pour 1 cup of polenta into the water stirring or whisking continuously.
Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently so it does not stick, until the polenta thickens – about 20 minutes.
Polenta does bubble up as it cooks, so sometimes if things get too crazy, I put on an oven mitt to be sure I don’t get burned by flying polenta bits.
The cooked polenta should be soft, tender, and thick. Stir in 4 ounces of crumbled blue cheese. If blue cheese isn’t your thing, Parmesan or even a nice sharp cheddar are also good choices. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
At this point, if you need to hold the polenta, turn it to the lowest warming setting and cover with a lid. It will stiffen up quite a bit but you can revive it with a little cream before serving.
When you’re ready to serve, stir in 1/4 cup of heavy cream and stir until combined and creamy.
Serve the Ratatouille and Polenta together in a shallow bowl. Garnish with some extra crumbles of blue cheese and some chopped fresh basil or parsley.
Delicious and healthy!
Make some ratatouille while you have abundant fresh vegetables. Then go watch the cute movie too.
Here’s the recipe: