A few years ago, Disney came out with an adorable movie called Ratatouille. Everyone in the food industry loves it because it is a cute representation of what we do every day (sadly, we don’t have rats helping us with our daily prep lists… health code). Remy was the cutest little sous chef and confidence booster to Alfredo. But did you know that Ratatouille is the name of an actual traditional French dish?! And it’s perfect for summer?! Oui! C’est incredible, non?! (3 years worth of French class for ya!)
But Ratatouille truly is an incredible summer dish if you think about it. Let me back up here for a second… what exactly is Ratatouille, Marlee??? Ratatouille is an amazingly clean and light French dish, seeing as how the French really love their butter and cream, but it is more or less a vegetable stew of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini! Throw some fresh herbs, like thyme and parsley, and you’ve got yourself a Ratatouille!
Now what makes Ratatouille such an ode to summer is that:
- It uses vegetables that are found plentifully during summer!
- It can be eaten cold as a dip!
- This isn’t a heavy dish whatsoever! Super light on the tummy.
I had been looking for another way to make my husband like eggplant for the longest time; don’t get me wrong, Eggplant Parm is delicious, which was the only way he’d eat it, but sometimes you want a nice, light eggplant-based dish you can feel guilt-free eating without it tasting like dirt. Ratatouille is the perfect dish for this conundrum.
When I was cooking this dish, I only had red onions on hand instead of the more popular yellow or white. These onions can be interchangeable but I found that while I was cooking, the red onions leeched some of their color into the dish and turned a nice vibrant pink color! So if you’re looking for more than just red and green, the bright pink that the red onions give could be a good option!
A few people may be wondering how do we even peel tomatoes (nope, not with a vegetable peeler) and is it really that important? Well seeing as how we aren’t peeling the eggplant or squash, it isn’t detrimental to peel the tomatoes but we peel tomatoes for a textural reason. Tomato skin tends to be tough so we get rid of it to have a more pleasant texture.
We accomplish this by doing a blanch and shock method. Lightly score an X on the bottom of the tomato (more of a surface cut than actually cutting into the meat of the tomato), this allows the heat from the boiling water to gently lift the skin from the meat, making it easier to peel without fully cooking the tomato. Place the scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling, salted, water for about 30 seconds or until you see the skin begin to crack away from the meat. Put the tomatoes into a water bath to quickly stop the cooking process. After a few minutes, remove tomatoes from the ice bath and peel away the skin. Voila! Peeled tomatoes!
What’s the point of the vinegar??? Don’t worry, we won’t come even close to pickling this dish with the vinegar. The vinegar’s job is to help lighten the flavor of the dish, much like lemon juice. Acidic products cut through the molecules of flavors in order to intensify them. If we increase the surface area a flavor is able to reach on our tongue, the flavor of that food intensified significantly!
Some may be wondering how in the world do I eat this dish? I have some pairings for ya to help get the creative juices going!
Serve Ratatouille with:
- Egg noodles
- Rice (either just boiled rice or a nice risotto would be great!)
- Crusty, toasted bread
The beauty of this amazing dish is that it can be so versatile in its serving! It can be a main course an appetizer; it can be served hot or cold. The world is your oyster!
Give this recipe a whirl and see how you like it! Imagine you’re in Provence eating Ratatouille with some delicious, artisan bread enjoying the sunset!
As our French friends would say, Bon Appetit!
- 1 each medium eggplant medium diced
- 1 each medium yellow squash medium diced
- 1 each medium zucchini medium diced
- 3 each garlic cloves minced
- 1 each small red onion thinly sliced
- 4 each roma tomatoes peeled and diced
- 1 each petite diced tomatoes canned
- 1/2 each tomato paste canned
- To Taste salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, fresh thyme
Saute garlic and onions over medium heat in EVOO until translucent.
Once garlic is translucent, add eggplant and cook until soft, being sure to add more oil as needed. Once eggplant is cooked, repeat with squash and zucchini. Season each vegetable well with salt and pepper.
Add tomatoes (fresh and canned), tomato paste, and thyme. Cook until all vegetables have softened and add a splash of vinegar to the vegetables and mix. Lastly, add chopped parsley to the pan and turn off heat.
Serve by itself or with pasta, rice, or polenta.