Rustic ratatouille

A slow-simmered dish like ratatouille makes perfect use of summer tomatoes and other fresh vegetables.

Kitchen Report
Rustic ratatouille with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and pepper is a perfect quick summer dish. It tastes even better as leftovers, giving the chance for the flavors to mix and meld even more.

With August’s arrival comes the abundance of fresh tomatoes. A slow-simmered dish like ratatouille is a delicious use of right-off-the-vine tomatoes and should be part of your summer’s repertoire.

Ratatouille, which comes from the French word "touiller,” meaning “to toss,” is literally a tossing in a pot of summer vegetables and simmering them in olive oil: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and seasoned with fresh garlic, basil, and perhaps a bay leaf. There are many varieties of ratatouille. There is the Disney version, made popular by the Pixar film “Ratatouille”; Julia Child sautées the vegetables separately; Alice Waters creates a “basil bouquet” bound with kitchen twine to enhance the flavors of the vegetables as they cook.

Whatever approach is your preference, I find great comfort in the fact that ratatouille, which originated in the French region surrounding Nice, was originally a peasant or farmer’s dish. I can imagine a farmer arriving home after toiling all day in the fields wanting a quick and hearty meal. I feel like this after a hard days’ work, too – the last thing I want to do is sweat it out in the kitchen. Just give me something hot, good, and fast. With ratatouille I can rely on the natural good flavors of fresh in-season vegetables and be content with its simplicity.

When I was down on the Cape recently visiting my mom, I was rooting around in her refrigerator and found that she had all the makings of ratatouille. She loves a good dish of ratatouille, too, so she got right to work assembling all the vegetables in one big pot. Lunch that day was a steaming bowl of summer's bounty swimming in delicious tomato sauce, which we sopped up with warm, crusty French bread. A welcome treat after a morning of household chores.

It was so good, I wanted to make some for myself when I got home. I didn’t follow a recipe, but this came out just as tasty and satisfying. You can serve it as a side, or with rice or crusty bread for your main meal.

Rustic ratatouille

Serves 4 to 6

2-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, sliced

2 gloves garlic, diced

3-4 tomatoes, chopped in quarters

1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or green) cored and sliced

1 eggplant, sliced into 1-inch discs and quartered

1 zucchini, sliced into coins

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large pot like a Dutch oven heat 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Sautée until the onion becomes translucent. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and simmer while you cook the eggplant and zucchini.

3. In a separate sauce pan, add the remaining olive oil and heat. Add the eggplant and zucchini and sautée until the vegetables become tender.

4. Add the eggplant and zucchini to the onion, tomato, pepper mixture and stir to combine. Add the fresh basil, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.

5. Cover and set in the oven for about 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.

Serve with crusty bread and maybe a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.