Oven-roasted Ratatouille

August 31, 2019 at 10:22 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes, Yearly menu plan)


Before I got pregnant with Alma I hated eggplant. So I never tried making ratatouille. But since my pregnancy I’ve learned to like eggplant. And I got eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers from my CSA this week. It was time to try making ratatouille.

I chose the “Walkaway Ratatouille” recipe from Cook’s Illustrated to try.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil + 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped coarse (or one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been drained and chopped coarse)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Crush and peel your garlic and chop your onion.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat ⅓ cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut up the eggplant.
  3. Add herbes de Provence, pepper flakes, and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown, 40 to 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, cut up your zucchini and bell peppers.
  4. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and return to oven. Cook, uncovered, until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from oven, cover, and let stand until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille. Discard bay leaf. Stir in 1 tablespoon basil, parsley, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large platter, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil, and serve.

My notes:

I mostly followed the recipe except I used “only” 5 Tbs. olive oil total, halved the salt (since I was using fine salt not kosher), was a little bit short on eggplant, and didn’t have fresh parsley so used some extra basil. Also, I forgot to add the sherry vinegar at the end, which was particularly sad since we all made a special trip to France this morning to get it! (I can’t find sherry vinegar in my German grocery stores.). Also, I added a bit more herbes de provence then the recipe called for. I didn’t use my fresh CSA tomatoes (seemed a waste). Instead I used two German jars of whole tomatoes. I drained them and crushed them right into the pot. I also shorted all the cooking times a bit because I started cooking dinner too late and was in a rush.

Derek and I liked it. Alma ate a little of the ratatouille, but she found it a bit too spicy (even from just a 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes!).

I thought that the flavors were balanced with a nice mix of roasted and fresh flavors.  And the combination of texture was also nice, with the mashed eggplant and onions and tomatoes contrasting with the less cooked zucchini and bell peppers. I particularly liked that the bell peppers were almost still crisp, but our zucchini was a tad on the raw side. I think next time I’d cut the zucchini a bit smaller and the bell peppers a bit bigger. Since I halved the salt it was a little bit undersalted, but I served with an oversalted polenta (not sure how that happened), so it balanced out. I really liked the combination with the polenta, but Derek said he thought it would be better on pasta. When I looked online people recommended eating it on bread, or as a side with meat or fish. Derek added parmesan to his.

The recipe did take a while to make, but it felt pretty simple. And it only got one pot dirty, which is a big plus in my book! Most of the work is just roughly chopping some vegetables, and you can chop a lot of the veggies while the earlier veggies are cooking.

The recipe made a lot, but I actually wish it had made a bit more! I think next time I make this I will try using a little more of all the vegetables, but cut the oil down to 1/4 cup. And I won’t peel the eggplant. That was just depressing seeing the beautiful purple eggplants turn into wan white spongy fruits, sad and embarrassed in their undressed state. Finally, I will make it on a cooler day! Turning the oven on really heated up the kitchen.

I’m also kind of curious to compare this recipe to Alice Waters’s ratatouille.

If you don’t have any herbes de provence, you can make your own using equal parts of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram and 1/3 as much fennel seeds. If you want a floral blend, also add 1/3 as much dried lavender. So for this recipe, for example, you could use 1/2 tsp. of each of the herbs and 1/6 tsp. each of fennel (and lavender if you want).

Update October 2019: About six weeks after posting this I made a different roasted ratatouille recipe from a new cookbook I just got: River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Instead of roasting the veggies in a dutch oven, you do it on a cookie sheet. The regular version has you make a tomato sauce on the stovetop, but the variant I tried has you omit the tomato sauce and instead roast a bunch of tomatoes on a separate tray from the other veggies and then mix them all together at the end. Both Derek and I really liked the recipe. It was extremely rich, with tons of olive oil, but therefore also very satisfying. And it didn’t seem greasy. Derek thought he liked it more than the usual ratatouille because of the lack of tomato sauce. Alma wouldn’t eat it, as usual with ratatouille. I can’t really compare this recipe to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, since they were six weeks apart. But my best guess is that this one was simpler and tastier? But I did use all the oil, whereas I halved the CI oil, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison.

 

1 Comment

  1. austingardener said,

    Ratatouille is my go to in order to preserve the produce from my garden. It freezes so well. But i make mine on the stove-top, put in whatever i have from the garden and don’t worry about proportions. I do think the fresh tomatoes make a difference and agree never to peel the eggplant. I will have to try the sherry vinegar as i bought some and had no idea what to do with it.

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