Ratatouille is the perfect vegetable dish.
A dish that forces the vegetables, and the special way they play off of each other’s flavours and textures, into the spotlight is the perfect vegetable dish; no argument to be made against it.
Get yourself to the Farmer’s Market, pick up the ingredients grown by a local farmer and marvel at this French wonder.
Serves 4, very comfortably
2 large tomatoes
1 bulb garlic, top sliced off so the cloves are visible
1 teaspoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F (205 C). In a baking dish, place tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a touch of salt. Roast, uncovered for about an hour. In the meantime, if you don’t have a food processor to do all the chopping, get a head start. Once the tomatoes are soft and the garlic is golden brown and sweet, remove from the oven and let cool, until it’s comfortable enough for you to handle. Remove the garlic from the skin and set both aside. Turn the oven down to 350 F (175 C).
3 small green zucchini, sliced into 5 cm thick rounds, on a bias
3 small yellow zucchini, sliced into 5 cm thick rounds, on a bias
1 large eggplant, sliced into 5 cm thick rounds and then salted, on a bias
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced thinly
1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced in long strips
4 to 6 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
Large handful of fresh basil and fresh thyme,
1 tablespoon dried oregano, rubbed in your hand
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
It’s important you salt the eggplant individually because it (in my experience) guarantees the correct melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Grease a large round baking dish with olive oil. Place your roasted tomatoes and garlic in it. Using a potato masher, mash the garlic into the tomatoes. You don’t want a sauce, but you do want the garlic and the tomatoes to be well mixed and to cover the bottom of the baking dish fairly evenly. Season with a touch of salt and pepper, a drizzle more of olive oil and a couple pinches of the herbs. Reserve a half cup or so, to pour on top of the sliced vegetables.
Layer the slices of vegetables in concentric circles on top of the tomato sauce. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and herbs. Place the reserved half cup of tomatoes and garlic in the middle. I lay a large handful fresh thyme across the top (because it’s wonderful and my one of my favourites). Arrange halved cherry tomatoes around the sides of the dish, if using. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Cook an additional 15 to 20 uncovered.
I served mine with an herbed polenta and it was heaven. You do whatever you need to to achieve yours.