The word ratatouille derives from the Occitan language ratatolha. It’s related to the French ratouiller meaning to stir up, and was used to indicate a coarse stew. This luscious coarse stew is one of my favorite ways to employ the abundance of fresh vegetables from the garden, especially at the end of the season when you probably can't stomach another summer squash recipe. I don't know when I enhanced the traditional recipes with my secret ingredients but suffice it to say that adding raisins and cinnamon gives it an exotic Moroccan profile that is far better than any other ratatouille I had eaten before. I also roast my eggplant at 400 degrees for 20 minutes after salting and sweating it for a good hour. This way the eggplant doesn't require sauteeing in ample applications of olive oil, which makes the end result cleaner tasting with an edge of char. The entire dish is beautiful and presentable as well and can be eaten warm, room temperature, or my favorite, cold the day after heaped into a warm pita with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of feta for a Mediterranean lunch that will thrill the palate.
Ratatouille is a perfect side dish to any Provencale-style meal and is also great over couscous for a vegan/vegetarian meal.
1 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
7 tablespoons olive oil separated
2 small eggplanta, thickly sliced, salted and allowed to sweat in a colander for an hour. Rinse and pat dry. Cut the eggplants in cubes and set aside.
2 small zucchini, scrubbed, quartered lengthwise, and cut into thick slices
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 32 oz. San Marzanos whole canned tomatoes crushed with your hands
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. crushed chile flakes
2 teaspoons salt separated plus more for sweating eggplant
1/2 cup golden sultanas or raisins
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cubed eggplant with 3 tbl. olive oil and toss with 1 tbl. salt.
Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread eggplant in a single layer on the pan. Roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through and charred slightly.
In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, cook the onion and the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add an additional 2 tbl. olive oil and toss in the zucchini and the bell pepper. Cook the mixture over the moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes until vegetables are wilted and cooked through. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and roasted eggplant. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the sultanas or raisins, oregano, thyme, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and chile flakes to taste.
Cook the mixture for another 15 to 20 minutes over low heat allowing the flavors to meld. Stir in the basil and combine the mixture well. The ratatouille may be made one day in advance, kept covered and chilled, and reheated before serving.
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