There may be things ratatouille cannot heal.
I just don’t know any of them.
It puts anything I am struggling with in perspective, connecting me to my senses, the present, and the world. To me, ratatouille is like life: seemingly complicated, yet utterly simple, infinitely surprising and delightful, varied, interesting, deep, and memorable.
Whether I am celebrating life or looking for a way out of dark moments, ratatouille is my dish.
Each cook in Provence, France has a unique recipe, passed down through the generations. And making ratatouille brings back the grandma who admonished you for adding too much garlic, or the aunt who watched over you so you didn’t overcook the peppers. It is memory, family, love.
Ratatouille requires your presence. You can’t phone it in, and there are no shortcuts. The rules are simple, yet firm: start with fresh vegetables, cut them lovingly into more or less equal pieces, and cook each separately.
Give each vegetable the care it deserves, honoring its unique character.
The zucchini should be slightly cooked but not mushy. The eggplant must be well done, adding a rich, almost meaty texture. The pepper has a strong personality, so it needs to be cooked but not soft. The tomato brings them all together, giving freshness and acidity and lifting the dish up. The dash of thyme in the background—that you feel more than taste—reminds you of sunshine and summer, a smile on a cloudy, sad day.
The real secret to making ratatouille is using all of your senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and feel.
Ratatouille asks that we be there. Our love and energy infuse every bite. And when the cooking is done and the senses awakened, next comes the best part: the tasting—done in my own company, at a table set with love and care, or with others, friends, lovers, and new connections.
This dish is for vegans, vegetarians, meat-eaters, the gluten-free, lactose-free, and egg-free.
Adapted with permission from Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living.
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 small yellow onion, cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 ½ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large (or 4 medium) ripe tomatoes, cut into ½-inch dice (about 4 cups)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 ½ teaspoon salt
In a large sauté pan, warm up 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, until well-browned on all sides. Remove the eggplant from the pan and place on a large plate lined with paper towels.
In the same pan, warm up 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes, until the zucchini are crisp on the outside. Remove the zucchini from the pan and place on a large plate lined with paper towels.
In the same pan, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the peppers start to soften. Remove the peppers from the pan and place them on a large plate lined with paper towels.
Still using the same pan, warm up the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are softened. Add the garlic, stir well, and cook for another minute or two, until the garlic releases its aroma.
Add the tomatoes, stir well, and continue to cook for another 7 to 8 minutes, until the tomatoes release their liquid. Add the eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt, stir well, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the thyme, stir well, and continue cooking an additional minute.
Adjust seasoning to taste. Transfer to a bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.
Author: Viktorija Todorovska
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Erin Lawson