July 19, 2012

Too much of a Good Thing?

This is about the time of year when people who are lucky enough to have prolific gardens start to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of gorgeous bright red tomatoes and beautiful zucchini that their loving care has yielded.   A problem I'd like to have, quite honestly...

Growing up, my grandparents next door neighbors had a garden behind their house. By the end of July, it was practically bursting at the seams.  Every summer we were the grateful recipients of brown paper grocery bags filled with tomatoes and cucumbers from his garden.  The trade off was the newspaper.  One of us was sent next door to give them the paper every day after my grandparents had read it and in turn, every few days he left a bag of fresh from the ground veggies on the back porch.  Not a bad arrangement.

If you find yourself overrun with tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, etc...  this recipe is perfect!  It utilizes all of the wonderful produce of summer in a healthy vegetarian dish that is... well, super yummy.  

Ratatouille can be eaten warm,  at room temperature or even cold. It is substantial enough to stand on its own or it can be served alongside roast chicken or tossed through your favorite pasta.

I have sandwiched it in a crusty ciabatta roll for lunch or served it on sliced, toasted baguettes as an hors d'oeuvre with a glass of wine.  This recipe is the epitome of summer, there really is no wrong way to enjoy it.

So, next time you are out in your garden or like me, gazing wistfully at other people's gardens, hands on hips, wondering what the heck to do with all of those little gems you've grown...  now you know.


There are many variations on this dish.  Some call for sliced vegetables, some rough chopped, some demand that each veggie be cooked separately, some just throw them all in the same pot.  As long as you are cooking, enjoying the process and the food tastes good...  do whatever makes you happy.

This is a variation on Julia Child's recipe.  I changed a few things to make it more to my taste, feel free to do the same from here.  More of what you like, less of what you don't.

  • 1 lb eggplant, peeled & cubed
  • 1 lb zucchini, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 3/4 lb firm, ripe tomatoes, peeled & seeded, chopped
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • a few sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp minced parsley
  • 1 tbsp basil, finely sliced (chiffonade)
Toss eggplant with 2 tsp salt and set inside colander to drain.  Place a small plate on top to weigh it down and let stand for 30 minutes.

Heat a few tbsp olive oil over medium heat and saute eggplant for a few minutes until lightly browned.  Remove eggplant from pan, add zucchini and saute until lightly browned. Remove zucchini & set aside.

In the same pan, cook onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes until tender, but not browned.  Add more oil if necessary.  Add garlic, thyme & bay leaves, season with salt and pepper.

Add tomatoes and cook over low heat for 5 minutes until tomatoes render their juices.  Then raise heat and simmer for several minutes until liquid has mostly evaporated.
Return eggplant and zucchini to the pan and stir to combine. 

Let simmer for a few minutes allowing flavors to combine, remove from heat and stir in parsley and basil.

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc


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