It's summertime, which in France (and elsewhere) means that the awesome summer veggies are arriving just in time to make a delicious ratatouille! I'm talking scrumptious eggplant, zesty zucchini, and pungent peppers. They are bountiful, and it's no wonder that ratatouille is considered one of the hallmarks of French cooking. It's so prevalent here that people eat it year round, but to be honest, it's this time of year when the veggies are at their best. As a result, the ratatouille is also at its most flavorful.
In case you're not familiar with the dish, ratatouille is a stewed combo of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and sweet peppers (typically red, but not always). Traditionally, you're supposed to cook all the ingredients separately. As you may know, I'm not one for tradition, and I usually throw everything into a pot in strategic order and let it simmer for a long time.
Lately, however, I've been really bored with that method. A couple of reasons:
- It can be a lot of work to fine chop all the veggies, which makes stewing them quicker and evenly cooked;
- I don't always have a lot of time to wait around while veggies stew, keeping an eye on them, stirring them, adjusting the temperature and/or the seasonings, etc.
- While the stewing method works great and can product great flavors when you have the time to do it right, when you don't the dish tends to fall a little flat.
So, I've recently thrown caution to the wind and have done a roasted version of the recipe instead, tradition be damned! And I've found that this version is not only easy and time-saving, but the flavors it produces can far outshine those of a half-assed stew.
The basic gist of the recipe is this:
- Chop and season your veggies.
- Roast them on a high temperature for 30 minutes.
- Broil them on a high temperature for 15 minutes.
I added some sausage to tonight's meal, but it's easy enough to do yours entirely vegetarian. Also, I've used whatever fresh herbs I've had on hand, but this dish works great with basil, lemon verbena, rosemary, and thyme (tonight I actually used a little lemon verbena, sage and dill).
The recipe follows. Don't forget: If you try this, please post a pic to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and tag it #eatfrenchclub.
roasted ratatouille with sausage
- 1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1" - 1.5" chunks
- 1 large zucchini, cut into 1" - 1.5" chunks
- 1 large pepper, cut into 1" - 1.5" chunks
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes, cut into 8ths
- 8-10 baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
- 1/2 large yellow onion, sliced thick
- 6 garlic cloves, quartered
- 6 dinner sausages (I used chipolatas with spices, but both sweet or spicy Italian would work well, too)
- Approximately 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped
- Approximately 1 tablespoon dried Herbs de Provence
- Approximately 1/2 tablespoon sea salt (I prefer course ground, but feel free to use fine)
- Approximately 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F/190 degrees C.
- Place chopped eggplant into 11" x 17" tall baking dish. Sprinkle generously with salt and let sit while you chop the other vegetables.
- Once zucchini, tomatoes, pepper, mushrooms, onion and garlic are chopped, add to baking dish. Sprinkle with a few more pinches of salt and several pepper grinds.
- In a 10" frying pan, brown sausages on all sides. Don't worry about cooking them through.
- Remove from pan and slice into 1/2" pieces. Add to vegetable pan.
- Add chopped fresh herbs, dried Herbs de Provence, and olive oil. Mix thoroughly.
- Place in oven on bottom rack for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through to ensure even cooking.
- Once vegetables are softened, move to top rack and turn oven to broil.
- Broil for approximately 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through to ensure even cooking.
- Whole wheat noodles
- Basmati rice
P.S.: You'll want to get some good crusty French bread to soak up all the delicious liquids in the bottom of the roasting pan.
- 11" x 17" deep baking pan
- 10" frying pan