When it comes to meals, there should be one hard and fast rule scorched into the handle of every wooden ladle: Stew should never be boring or bland. Never. Stew, by its very nature, celebrates the beauty and flavor of each ingredient. Ratatouille, in my opinion, is the perfect stew and the ultimate French Provençal comfort food. Rich, satisfying, fragrant, and ratatouille is post-holiday diet friendly because it is low in fat and calories.
Ratatouille is traditionally served in the summer because the farmers markets are overflowing with tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. Even though it is mid-winter in Alaska, I stumbled upon eggplants packaged in threes and stuck in the produce bargain bins for quick sale at the local Fred Meyer. Also in the bargain bins, were slightly wrinkly soft bell peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes ideal for a same-day meal. I couldn’t believe my luck! An unexpected mid-winter summer treat = instant happiness.
- 2 generous tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small yellow or white onions, chopped (or one large sweet onion)
- 2 eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 large green, red or yellow bell peppers,
seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1.5 lbs ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded
and coarsely chopped
- 1.5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
Wash and rinse the zucchini and eggplant, then sprinkle with sea salt or Kosher salt. Let it sit for 30 minutes or so. Meanwhile, prepare the onions, bell peppers, and garlic. Saute the onions, bell peppers, and half of the garlic in hot olive oil.
Add the zucchini and eggplant once the onions are soft. Be careful not to stir them too much or they will become a mushy (if tasty) mess. Once the eggplant and zucchini are nice and golden, add the remaining garlic, tomatoes, and tomato paste. allow to cook for a bit over medium-low heat for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the herbs and remove from the heat. Allow the dish to rest.
Add more salt and pepper before serving. I find that this dish is even better the next day or even eaten cold from the pan and it is perfectly complimented by a pale ale and some reggae (Steel Pulse… trust me on this).