Can’t believe that fall is but a few days away. I’m in complete denial. Summer isn’t over for me just yet. Today, I’ve prepared a late summer ratatouille. My way of saying: Summer, I’m not quite ready to say goodbye. There are still plenty of summer vegetables to enjoy this time of year — heirloom tomatoes, colorful bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, etc. I’ve seen winter squash around, but refuse to acknowledge them for the time being.
What better way to enjoy the late summer bounty than with a simple and delicious ratatouille. There are a good 10 pounds of vegetables that went into this ratatouille. I may have gone a bit overboard on the veggies. Nonetheless, have been enjoying the ratatouille for several days now. And the best thing about a ratatouille is that it tastes even better reheated.
Making ratatouille is not difficult, though it does take a bit of preparation. First, chop, slice, and/or mince the various vegetables. Then, saute the vegetables, in stages, in a skillet with olive oil. Thereafter, into the oven until the vegetables are tender. Most recipes call for a minimum of one hour cooking time, but this batch took several hours in the oven for the vegetables to soften to that perfect consistency and for the flavors to meld. The end result, tender to the bite, but still a bit chunky, and oh so delicious!
Ratatouille is an eminently versatile dish. Serve it warm as the centerpiece of a meal, as an hors d’oeurve, or as an accompaniment to your favorite main dish.
I got a little fancy and put the ratatouille in a ring mold and piled monkfish on top…ratatouille with monkfish, a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, and fresh basil leaves.
A Late Summer Ratatouille
3 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 bell peppers, red, orange, and/or yellow, seeded, cut into 1-inch strips
6 zucchini/summer squash, cut into 1-inch slices
5 medium tomatoes, quartered, squeeze out any excess moisture
2 large onions, minced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves
Place the cubed eggplant in a colander with salt. Leave them to drain for 30 minutes. Press them down and blot with paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet. Add the onions, tomatoes, garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of thyme, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens a bit. Pour the sauce into a bowl.
Clean the skillet with a paper towel and heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the eggplant and cook for 5 minutes. Put in the bowl with the tomato-onion sauce.
Clean the skillet and add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the peppers, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Put them in the bowl with the eggplant.
Clean the skillet again and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the zucchini/summer squash and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add to the bowl of vegetables.
Combine all the vegetables in a baking dish, along with the wine, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon thyme, salt and pepper, and stir well with a wooden spoon. Bake in the oven uncovered for an hour minimum. The vegetables will have exuded a lot of liquid by this time. You’ll want to drain some of it off.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and return the baking dish back to the oven and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, but chunky, and most of the liquid has cooked out. Remove from the oven. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the fresh basil leaves.