Ratatouille the easy way
I didn't plan on making ratatouille... but it's easy
This was another one of those accidental meals. I had a beautiful eggplant and planned to make my regular 'not quite eggplant parmesan' recipe.
Then there was a knock on the door. A neighbor was moving out of our building and had kindly brought me the contents of her fridge - lovely, what an unexpected treat! What easy recipes was I going to make?
So now I had eggplant, zucchini, a lovely large onion, a green bell pepper, a brand new bottle of olive oil ... well, what else could it be other than ratatouille?
Due to a very large and tasty tomato, cheese and basil salad we'd had at lunchtime, I had to use canned tomatoes but often they have much more flavor than the supermarket variety. I had garlic (I always do) and herbs in the garden so let's go.Easy ratatouille here we come.
Onions and garlic
The first stage was to slice a large onion and sauté in olive oil in a skillet. Next, add two cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped. I let these cook quite slowly. While this is happening, I prepare the eggplant and pepper into dice and the zucchini into slices. To serve two, I used one zucchini, one eggplant and one pepper - all medium sized.
The salting debate
I used to always salt eggplants before cooking. I'd been told that this 'releases the bitterness'. One day, I just didn't have the time so skipped the step.
I didn't taste any difference at all.
I also thought that eggplant needed too much oil to cook it if it wasn't salted and drained in advance but again, I found no difference at all. (I began to wonder if the idea of salting and rinsing the vegetable had originated with the salt manufacturers!)
But, I always use young eggplant and I usually cook an eggplant dish on the same day we've bought it because I like the freshness. I understand that older, large eggplants do benefit from salting though so you may wish to do this. If you do salt them, rinse them very well and pat dry on paper towel.Now, where were we?
Add the vegetables to the pan
- the Green Bell Pepper -
- the Zucchini -
- The vegetables only need to be added to the pan for a short time - about five minutes. This is just long enough to coat them in oil and absorb the flavors of the garlic and onions. Stir often so the flavors mingle.
- I add chopped basil leaves at this stage. Sometimes, if the thyme in my garden is behaving (which it isn't at the moment) I add a little thyme too. Oh and black pepper.
- Then add the entire contents of a regular size can of tomatoes. Bring to a boil. I happened to be having a glass of red wine at this stage, so I poured a little in - probably about a tablespoon or thereabouts.
- This then needs to cook gently for about fifteen minutes. The pepper should still be quite a bright green and the zucchini should still have a bit of crunch - I taste the zucchini as a test. Of course, you can cook it longer depending on how you prefer your vegetables.
- Note that this can also be cooked in the oven. I try to use as little electricity as possible so I use the stove top but if you have the oven on for cooking other items, this will cook very well alongside it.
As you can see, we ate this with some lovely crusty bread and yes, you can see butter on there. The butter was another treat supplied by our neighbor. It's great served with rice though and a particular favorite way of serving it in this household is with couscous.
The sauce is so delicious so it's nice to have something to soak them up to further enjoy the flavors.
If you're considering a vegetarian lifestyle, or merely want to substitute a few of your meals for meat-free versions, a good cookbook will be invaluable.
Help in the kitchen
They say that 'a bad workman blames his tools' and the opposite applies too. With a few good kitchen appliances and helpers, your culinary life will be so much easier. There's no need to have a battery of tools as celebrity and professional chefs do, but a few well-chosen tools can save time - and money.
All photographs taken in my kitchen during the preparation of this dish.
More vegetable dishes
- Tomato, potato & onion bake recipe
An easy-to-make dish using simple ingredients, this vegetable bake makes a wonderful main meal for vegetarians or a tasty side dish. It's very quick to prepare, full of vitamins and inexpensive.
- Leek and Potato Bake
This leek and potato bake makes a delicious meat-free dinner when served with a simple tomato salad. It's also delicious as a vegetable side dish. Quick & easy. See step by step photographs.
- Not quite Eggplant Parmesan recipe
I wanted to make Eggplant Parmesan but there was one big problem- no Parmesan in the house. Never mind, I developed this meat free recipe instead and it's delicious - plus quick and easy to make.
Step by step
© 2013 Jackie Jackson