With all of the beautiful summer produce winking at me from every market stall on nearly every corner in lower Manhattan, it’s impossible to resist buying something every other day.
By the end of the week, my refrigerator looks like a disaster zone with all sorts of odds and ends from last week’s produce shopping spree, sharing space with this week’s purchases. And then you have the counters, the kitchen table, the pantry…. it goes on. I’ve replaced a clothes shopping addiction with a food shopping addiction. Sue me.
But this is summer after all, where the living is easy and cooking should be just as simple and carefree. After my heirloom tomato and eggplant short stack recipe from yesterday, I realized I had some leftovers that needed to be used quickly.
Enter my recipe bucket list. Yes, I have one of those. Some people want to sky dive or hike Everest. I want to make a perfect boeuf bourguignon. We all have our things.
Anyway, I realized that I had the makings of one of my bucket list recipes and this was an opportunity that needed to be seized. I was going to make Ratatouille.
You may have watched the Disney movie years ago and been charmed by Remy the rat, a gourmand with the palate of a Michelin-caliber chef and dreams of becoming a cook in his favorite restaurant in Paris. He’s a cute little guy, isn’t he?
I won’t toss in any spoilers here for those who haven’t seen it yet, but let’s just say that there was one scene in particular that made me think that the play on words with Remy the rat making ratatouille to save his favorite restaurant just a little difficult to..uh…digest.
Either way, the seed was planted that I would make my own ratatouille one day (sans rat) because this dish has a specific quality that I appreciate most in food: comfort. There are few things I love more in this world than the warmth and good feelings brought on by a plate or bowl of something absolutely delicious and comforting all at once.
So, ratatouille it is tonight. Thank goodness I bought all those tomatoes and eggplants. There’s always a reason to buy more (as my wallet and bank account cry in my purse…because those things have emotions and they cry on occasion. It’s true.).
Before we get started, let me drop some knowledge on tonight’s superstar ingredient, summer squash aka. zucchini:
Note: Zucchini and summer squash are actually the same thing, even though people generally refer to the green version as zucchini. There are golden zucchini varieties as well, further adding to the confusion. But zucchini itself is actually a type of summer squash, called Italian Marrow. I used green and yellow zucchini here and will stick to that word for the sake of continuity.
- Vitamin C. We reviewed some of the benefits of this powerful vitamin yesterday when I discussed tomatoes. The same goes here. 1 cup of uncooked zucchini provides 32% of your DV. Couple that with the tomatoes in this ratatouille recipe and you’ll get over two-thirds of your daily value in one meal!
- Regulates blood sugar. Zucchini are a rich source of vitamins B6, B2, and folate which help metabolize sugar in the blood stream. Additionally, the high fiber content in zucchini (about 5% of DV in one cup), contributes to blood sugar stabilization and makes it an essential part of a healthy diet for diabetics.
- Antioxidant impact. As an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese, zucchini provides a number of antioxidant advantages, including eye health, anti-cancer properties, and reduced risk of cell oxidation. To obtain all of the antioxidant benefits from zucchini, you must eat everything from the peel to the flesh to the seeds.
I found many many many recipes for ratatouille with dozens of variations. Some were more like a stew while others appeared to be a colorful display of roasted vegetables. I opted to go with something in the middle to keep it light and easy but still give me that comfort that love.
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
- 2 small green zucchini, sliced thinly across
- 2 small yellow zucchini, sliced thinly across
- 1 red onion, sliced across
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced across
- 1 heirloom tomato, (or a beefsteak would work as well) diced
- 1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
- ½ tbsp herbes de provence
- Freshly ground sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Handful of fresh basil, cut into ribbons for garnish
- ½ cup fresh spinach (optional)
Large cast-iron skillet
Before you do anything, prep all of the vegetables first. Most of the time spent making this dish involves chopping. I don’t own a mandoline and after debating on whether I should buy one or not, I decided to listen to the sobs coming from my wallet post-food shopping spree and avoid an unnecessary expense. If you don’t own one, but you own a very sharp knife that you can handle, then you’re all set. Chop away.
Ok, seriously, now we can get started!
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
2. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic once its warm (not too hot or it’ll burn!) and move around the pan for about a minute. Reduce the heat to low-medium. Add the eggplant and cook for 4-5 minutes stirring and flipping so that it cooks on both sides. Next add the zucchini, red peppers, and onions in that order. Cook each vegetable for about 3-4 minutes each, continually stirring to ensure all the sides being cooked.
Sure, the pan is crowded but these guys will make friends pretty easily.
3. Toss in the tomatoes and canned tomatoes, thyme, herbes de provence, and grind the salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything together gently and be sure to evenly distribute the tomatoes, seasonings, and vegetables across the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.
4. Sprinkle parmesan cheese all over the top and place the skillet into the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.
5. Remove the skillet and let the dish cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. Place spinach on a serving plate to create a bed. Scoop a serving of your very own ratatouille onto the spinach and garnish with basil.
Voile! C’est magnifique! I’ve exhausted my French skills here, and really there’s no need for the extra flourish because this dish speaks for itself. Plus, it was EASY!
What do you think? Will you give this a try before the summer is over?
Did you know?
Researchers found preserved squash seeds in Mexican caves dating back to 10,000 years go. It’s believed that summer squash originated in Mexico and Central America and was soon domesticated and cultivated far beyond their borders, particularly North America where it was adopted as an integral part of Native American cuisine. Pretty cool, huh?
CHECK IN TOMORROW FOR ANOTHER SUMMER RECIPE!
Resources and Links: