Ratatouille is one of those dishes that I am sure the French invented to get rid of the bits and bobs of vegetables that were hanging around at the end of the week. It's a kitchen sink kind of a dish, with all sort of delicious vegetables tossed in and cooked into a wonderfully tasty and rich melange.
I like the vegetables in mine to remain rather distinct and so I like to keep them into medium/large chunks. I also like to use Molly Wizenberg's technique of roasting the aubergine first. I'm not sure why it should make a difference, but it does . . .
Crusty bread is a must to help sop up all those deliciously rich juices.
This is peasant food, comfortingly simple, with rich and complex flavours . . .
Serves 4 to 6
This is one of those dishes that is quite tasty as well as comforting. It's also one of those dishes that tastes better the longer you let it stand . . . rich and flavourful, and just right served with fresh crusty bread to sop up all the delicious juices.
1 kg aubergines, cut into pieces (eggplants to you North Americans)
extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red peppers, halved, deseeded and cut into pieces
2 yellow peppers, halved, deseeded and cut into pieces
6 smallish courgettes, trimmed, halved lengthwise and cut into pieces
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
6 medium tomatoes, halved and chopped
a small bunch of basil, coarsely chopped
a sprig of Thyme
a bay leaf
coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Slice your aubergines and brush them on one side with some olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast in a hot oven (200*C/400*F) for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip over and brush the other sides with some olive oil and return them to the heated oven to roast for another 15 minutes. They should be lightly browned when done. Remove from the oven and set aside.
Heat 3 TBS of olive oil in a large casserole with a lid. Add the onions and cook until soft, some 3 to 5 minutes. Salt lightly. Add all of the peppers and cook for 5 to 8 minutes longer, stirring often. Turn up the heat to keep the sizzling sound going, but don't let it burn. Season lightly again. Add one more tablespoon of the oil and the courgettes. Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes longer. Add the roasted aubergine, cut into chunks along with the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the tomatoes, basil, thyme and the bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring, then lower the heat and cover. Simmer gently for for 30 minutes, checking occasionally and giving it a good stir. Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaf. This tastes best when served at room temperature. Garnish with a few sliced basil leaves and a good grinding of black pepper.