I’ve talked about my love of Ratatouille before, both the movie and the food item. The movie has the message of “Anyone can cook,” which is to say not everyone can do it but that one’s station in life — even as a rat — can’t dictate whether one is a great chef.
A great chef I am not but I take comfort in that, and many other, life lessons offered by the Pixar classic.
As I’ve come to love the French dish almost as much as the move, I’ve also come to realize it’s an appropriate recipe to highlight the movie’s message and theme. The dish is a humble stew that also can be made to be served at the top restaurant in Paris.
If anyone can can cook, ratatouille shows that simple ingredients can make for an impressive meal no matter which way you make it.
I found last year that I loved making this traditional stew-like dish as a tian on a sheet pan. But in making it in my Dutch oven this year, I was reminded that it also works really well in its stew-ish form. While it mirrors a hearty stew, it is still exclusively vegetables and herbs and spices, with a little bit of (OK, a lot of) olive oil, which makes it light even on a summer night. Also, it doesn’t need to cook for hours upon hours. It’s a half hour or so in front of a stove top, not bad in the air-conditioned house.
It’s practically perfect, especially for the upcoming Bastille Day!
Here’s what I did:
- 5+ T. olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 7 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 2 medium), chopped
- 2 medium zucchinis, chopped
- 2 medium summer squash, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- Salt, to taste
- 1 T. thyme (the recipes often recommended whole sprigs to be removed; I just used dried)
- 2 T. dried basil (I’d prefer fresh but I had some dried on hand)
- 1 T. dried oregano
- ½ T. red pepper flakes (optional)
- 4 to 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 3 T. tomato paste
Add about 2 T. of oil to a large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until beginning to turn translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add another about 2 T. of oil and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add another about 2 T. of oil, the zucchini, summer squash, and bell pepper. Cook, continuing to stir occasionally, for another 5 to 10 minutes until the zucchini and squash are mostly cooked through. Add the tomatoes, herbs and spices, and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes, covered, until all the vegetables are cooked through and the mixture looks stew-ish.
Let cool slightly (it stays hot for awhile), and enjoy with some fancy bread!