Ratatouille is one of the world’s great vegetable dishes. It’s a brightly flavoured rustic dish of stewed vegetables that traces its roots to the sunny south of France. It’s simple to make and simple to vary and usually includes tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers, eggplant and zucchini slowly cooked together with olive oil.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Several splashes of olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
A few zucchini, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeds removed, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
A few onions, sliced
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, ï¬nely chopped
Several garden ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks or one 28-ounce (796 mL) can of whole tomatoes
A bay leaf
A few sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried
A sprinkle or two of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 or 2 bunches of fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon (15 mL) of balsamic vinegar
Begin by sautéing the eggplant and zucchini in a large skillet over high heat with a splash or two of olive oil. Continue cooking, stirring and tossing, until the vegetables are golden brown and tender, 10 minutes or so. Set these vegetables aside in a bowl.
Turn the heat down a bit and continue with another splash or two of olive oil and the bell peppers, cooking them just until they’re tender, another 5 minutes or so. Add them to the first batch of reserved vegetables.
Next, sauté the onions with another splash of olive oil until they soften a bit. Add the garlic and continue for another few minutes. Lower the heat. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme and simmer until the mixture thickens, another 10 minutes or so. Break up the whole tomatoes into smaller pieces. Add the reserved vegetables and season the works with salt and pepper. Simmer until everything is heated through.
Stir in the fresh basil and balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.
You may finish the ratatouille with several heaping spoonfuls of freshly made Basil Pesto, fresh oregano, lots of sliced green onions or parsley. For a more Mediterranean flavour, try adding lots of kalamata-style black olives or artichoke hearts. You can add lots of grilled flavour to ratatouille by grilling the eggplant, zucchini and peppers and tossing them with the stewed tomato mixture and basil.
In the Maritimes we don’t worry whether our chowders are authentic or not. We know a true clam chowder is just a bowl full of simple, hearty flavours. We often use canned clams and always stir in onions, potatoes and milk. We’re too busy asking for seconds to worry whether we got it right!
A rack of lamb is a great special occasion dinner. Too bad each chop only gets a thin crust of aromatic topping. To maximize the flavour potential, use individual lamb chops that can each be thickly encased with a crust. Mint and lamb are one of the great classic flavour combinations, and the edamame provides vibrant colour and protective moisture for the delicate mint while in the oven.