Ratatouille – the savoury stewed flavours of the early harvest

Ratatouille

My organic farmers’ box arrived this week with an eggplant, a yellow zucchini and a red pepper. Looked like ratatouille waiting to happen to me!

Ratatouille is a vegetable stew that’s satisfying and rustic. Rustic is cooking talk for “easy and carelessly chopped.” When I eat ratatouille, I envision sturdy French peasants eating from wooden bowls by the warm glow of the fireplace.

Ingredients

1 zucchini – cut in half lengthwise and then sliced

1 medium eggplant – with ½ the skin peeled off and then cut in cubes. There’s no magic in peeling off half the skin. I just like having some pieces with skin on and some skinless. Leave all the skin on, or take it all off. Your ratatouille, your rules.

1 red pepper – seeded and roughly diced (rustically diced)

3-4 cremini mushrooms – stems removed and sliced

½ large white onion diced

4 cloves garlic minced

19 oz can diced tomatoes

¼ cup fresh basil chopped

¼ cup fresh parsley chopped

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 sprigs dried thyme (roughly 1 tsp dried thyme)

1 ½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp salt

½ tsp ground pepper

2 tsp olive oil

Directions

In a large pot, sauté the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add all the other ingredients and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and keep simmering for 30-60 minutes. The longer you simmer this dish, the more the veggies will break down. I preferred a chunkier stew and only simmered mine for 40 minutes.

TIP: Add a tablespoon or so of balsamic vinegar to most tomato dishes – spaghetti, minestrone soup, ratatouille or even cream pasta sauces. The vinegar adds depth and roundness to the flavours.

I had some leftover lentils in the freezer – about ¾ cup – so I threw them in the pot, but that is NOT classic ratatouille.

Ratatouille is usually served with crusty bread and might have cheese, particularly goat cheese, melted on top.

Since I am not a sturdy French peasant and am vegan, I will have my ratatouille over brown rice and with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

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