One stroll through a mid-August farmers market and you’ll find piles of peppers, overflowing milk crates of summer squash and flats of tomatoes that seem to be every color of the rainbow. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the season’s bounty, but if you take just a moment to think, it’s equally easy to get incredibly inspired. There are plenty of recipes you can make with tomatoes and different ways you can stuff peppers or whip up eggplant, but there’s one uber-fresh recipe that makes the best use of all of these bright, fresh and deeply flavorful seasonal ingredients: ratatouille.
Today, ratatouille may be more closely associated with the 2007 Pixar film than the actual dish featured in the movie and on provincial tables. But this isn’t rat food.
There are thousands of variations of ratatouille, but in its most essential form, this dish consists of equal parts eggplant, summer squash and bell pepper, flavored with onion, garlic and herbs de provence in a fresh tomato sauce. That ingredient list gives away why this is an ideal late summer recipe.
You don’t really need to worry about having equal parts of eggplant, squash and peppers — just make sure in total you have plenty of each.
The really important part of making a good ratatouille is the basic cooking skill of making sure all of your veggies are cut in equal sizes. This ensures that your eggplant, squash and peppers will all cook at the same rate, creates a visually-appealing final dish and makes for easy eating. You can certainly slice your vegetables into rounds, but we think it’s easier to dice your vegetables. Whether you want them in ½-inch or ¾-inch cubes is totally your call.
After mastering your knife cuts, saute everything in a pan, add your sauce and simmer. Then dig in, because you have a healthy, seasonal meal on the table. If summer squash and tomatoes aren’t your summertime fav, that’s OK — there’s plenty more summer produce you can cook up.
This recipe is by James P. DeWan and was originally published in The Chicago Tribune.
Step 1: Heat a heavy bottomed skillet or stock pot over medium high heat. When hot, add 3 tablespoons oil and let heat, about 15 seconds. Add 1 diced eggplant, season with salt, and saute until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a bowl.
Step 2: Add more oil if needed, then add 1/2 diced onion and 1-2 diced peppers; saute until onions are just starting to color and peppers are tender, about 2 minutes.
Step 3: Add 2 diced squash; saute until tender, about 3 minutes.
Step 4: Add 2-4 cloves minced garlic; saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Step 5: Stir in half a can of tomatoes and reserved, cooked eggplant along with 1-2 tablespoons herbs, salt to taste and several grinds of pepper. Add remaining tomato if you want and when liquid starts to bubble, reduce heat and simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.
Step 6: Check seasoning, then serve immediately or hold, refrigerated, up to 5 days. May be served hot or at room temperature.