Normally, if someone says “Vegetable Stew”, my color palls, I get the shakes..and immediately lose my appetite. It’s not that I have some odd aversion to vegetables, far from it, it’s just the particular dish that is resident deep in my psyche that causes me ill. And I have Mama Fodder to thank for that.
Four hungry kids, a tight food budget and a serious deficit in the meat purchasing department that week, prompted mom to chop up a HEAP of non complimentary vegetables, toss them in a pot, add some stock, cook it up and call it dinner.
She meant well… And we all know about a particular road to hell… This one was paved with inedible vegetable stew.
Bless her heart, we never let her live it down. It became the benchmark by which all her meals were judged.
“Is it good? well… at least it’s better than the vegetable stew…”
But I digress…. Back to the stew…
I probably should admit at this point that I AM the target audience for subliminal advertizing. Show me a warm puppy…I want one. Demonstrate the new whacka-chopper – puree – juicer for 3 easy payments of $29.95.. and I buy 3. That’s what happened the other night, I was just minding my business rolling through the channels and I came across Ratatouille (you know… that cartoon) and I became a man possessed… I needed Ratatouille! even if it was vegetable stew…and I wasn’t going to get over that yearning until I had some.
So I started looking around through all my cookbooks for a recipe like that one (you know… in that cartoon) and you know what…. it doesn’t exist. You can’t make it like he (you know… the mouse) did in the car…toon. So, I did the next best thing…
I butchered Julia Child’s recipe.
Ratatouille is a Provencal French vegetable side dish traditionally with eggplant, courgettes, peppers, tomato and onions and seasoned lightly with parsley, basil or fine herbs. Julia’s Recipe called for an oven preparation, but I opted for a range top style to shorten the cooking process greatly.
Serves 6 to 8
2 Medium Asian or Neon Eggplant (about 1/2 a pound)
3 Small Zucchini (about 1/2 a pound)
1 Large White Onion
2 Bell Peppers (Yellow and Red)
2 Pounds of Fresh Tomatoes – Whole
2 Cloves Garlic – Minced
3 Tablespoons Basil and Parsley Mixed – Minced
Salt / Pepper
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
Large Lidded Saute Pan
Large Non Reactive Bowl
- Peel the eggplant and slice length-wise into 1/2″ slices
- Slice the zucchini into matching slices
- Place the slices into the bowl and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt over. Toss and set aside for 30 minutes
- While they are waiting, peel and slice the onion into this slices
- Seed and stem the peppers and slice into 1/4 inch slices
- Peel the tomatoes, cut in half and squeeze to remove the excess liquid and seeds; slice the remaining pulp into 1″ slices
- With the saute pan on high heat, add a tablespoon of the oil and fry the eggplant and zucchini for about 2 minutes each side and set aside
- In the same pan, add the remainder of the oil, the peppers and onions
- Cook until soft and clear, but be careful not to caramelize the onions
- Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine
- Reduce the heat to low and layer the tomato slices over the onion mixture
- Cover and allow to simmer for 5 to 7 minutes – or until the tomatoes begin to release their juice
- With a large spoon, baste over the top of the tomatoes with the collected juices and return the cover – (do this 5 times over 5 minutes)
- Remove the cover and raise the heat to medium – when all the liquid is evaporated, remove from the heat
- Take 1/3 of the tomato mixture and place in the bottom of the dutch oven
- Sprinkle 1/3 of the parsley mixture over
- Next, layer 1/2 of the sliced eggplant and zucchini
- Top with the next third of the tomato mix and parsley
- Add the last of the eggplant and squash and finish with the last of the tomatoes and herbs
- Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes
- Remove the cover, raise the heat to medium and cook until all the liquid evaporates (about another 10 minutes.)
- Use the spatula to lift the ratatouille as it cooks down to keep it from sticking to the pot.
- Serve it hot or at . room temperature… as a side dish or as a meat free main course with some freshly cooked linguine.