“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients.”- Julia Child
Say it with me,
Fun to say,
Fun to make,
Fun to EAT!
Seriously folks, I had no choice when I went to the Farmer’s Market this weekend. It was a clear sign from the harvest-
Fresh summer flavors….and so many colors on one plate. I followed Julia’s recipe. Duh. Again, is there a choice? I suppose there is- after all Alice Waters & Eric Ripert have lovely versions. But I’m a purist!
So, Julia’s modus operandi is to cook everything seperately, that way each vegetable retains its particular flavor, texture and character. Ratatouille is known for being a rustic Provençal dish that is fairly easy to prepare and every good french cook worth their weight in butter has their own take on it. Speaking of butter- Julia often gets a bad rap for using butter and cream in all her cooking. Well, here’s a recipe without either indulgence! Take that, naysayers!
Julia Child’s Ratatouille
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1 lb. eggplant
1 teaspoon salt
6-7 tablespoons olive oil, more if necessary
1/2 lb. (about 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
1 pound firm red tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups pulp
2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers
2 cloves mashed garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.
One layer at a time, saute the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.
In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to tastes.
Slice the tomato pulp into 3/8 inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil off several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated.
Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.
Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time or serve cold.
To be honest, this did take me over three hours to prepare. But what’s more fun than sipping on some Bordeaux and listening to Edith Piaf while you blanch and dice and chop and sauté? The effort does pay off and once you make it the first time, you can shave time off in your next execution. We enjoyed the fruits of our labor as a maindish with some crusty bread on the side, but the real beauty of ratatouille is its versatility. Serve it in a crepe, over rice, along roasted chicken….let your imagination go wild!