Ratatouille Niçoise

Posted by on Sep 9, 2013 in Recipes by Karen Gros | 0 comments

Ratatouille Niçoise

Every French cook has their own version of this classic Provençal stewed vegetable dish (which originates from the area of Nice, hence the Niçoise in the title).  Purists will tell you that each vegetable must be sautéed separately before stewing as a whole.  While it does save a little time to sauté everything together at once, my husband’s step mother, Charlotte, attests that “c’est bon, mais ce n’est pas pareil”, which means “it’s good, but it’s just not the same,” and I have to agree.  Ratatouille may be served cold, room temperature, or warm, as starter or side to a main dish such as grilled chicken or baked fish.

Ratatouille is traditionally stewed stovetop, but I find that simmering in the oven better suits my multi-tasking tendencies.  Peeling the tomatoes is worth the extra 15 minutes it takes to blanch and slip the skins off.  Try it once without peeling and you’ll see what I mean.

Serves 4

Eggplant, 4 medium
Coarse sea salt (about 2 T.)
Tomatoes, 3 large or 1/2 dozen Romas
First cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil (up to 1 cup)
Onions, 2 medium
Red bell peppers, 2 medium
Zucchini, 3 medium
2 cloves garlic, minced
Bouquet garni (sprig of parsley & thyme, bay leaf tied into a bundle)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

ratatouille_veggies4The only ingredient missing from this photo is the bouquet garni ~ a bundle of parsley, thyme & bay

1.  Salt the eggplant:  Cut eggplant in 1-inch cubes, place in a colander in the sink, and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt; set aside for 30 minutes.  Discard the dark juices, rinse with cool water, and blot dry in an old dishtowel; squeeze to eliminate excess moisture.

salting eggplant1Salting the eggplant, removes the bitter juices produced by anthocyanins, and is especially important for late season or older eggplants grown in dry conditions.

2.  Prep the veggies:  Peel and cut the onions in half through the stem and root, then into ¼-inch slices (slicing in the direction of the grain helps to lessen sulfuric gasses which burn the eye).  Slice the peppers in half, remove the seeds, and slice into 1-inch chunks.  Cut zucchini into 1-inch die.  To skin the tomatoes:  Set a small pan of water to boil; when boiling add the tomatoes for 1-2 minutes until the skins crack, and remove to a bowl of ice water for one minute.  Slice tomatoes in half, core and remove skins.  Preheat the oven to 350°F.

3.  Sauté the veggies:  Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed flame-proof pot over medium flame.  Sauté the onions, sprinkling with salt.  Cook until translucent and cooked through, but not browned; remove to a large bowl.  Continue in the same manner with each vegetable, proceeding next with the peppers and ending with the tomatoes.  During the last 5 minutes of cooking the eggplant, add the minced garlic to the pan, and cook together for 5 minutes; remove to bowl.  Continue with the tomatoes, sautéing just until some of the watery juices evaporate, about 5 minutes.  Do not overcook tomatoes or they will become sauce.

4.  Return the veggies to the cooking pot, and gently toss together.  Nestle in the bouquet garni; add salt, freshly ground pepper, and drizzle with remaining olive oil.  Lightly fold the veggies, burying the bouquet garni.

ratatouille_prestew

5.  Bake for 1-hour to 1.5-hours uncovered, gently turning the vegetables halfway through cooking time.  Remove the bouquet garni before serving, and let sit at room temp at least 30 minutes before serving.  Serve at room temperature; on a hot day, serve chilled, as it’s done in Provence.

ratatouille_anneBeautiful dish of ratatouille, photo by Sallye Hof