Every year when the summer harvest finally hits, we get an explosion of fresh vegetables. The supply is literally endless.
Everywhere you look, there’s fresh eggplants, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and jalapeños on top of all the potatoes, onions, and garlic.
You name it, and it’s probably bursting out of our kitchen storage. For me, the answer to this explosion of goodness is to make a big pot of ratatouille.
This thick vegetable stew is a perfect recipe for the summer, especially if you garden.
You can just throw all the veggies into the pot at once, and it turns into a delicious meal. Oh by the way, did I mention you only need one pot to make this ratatouille? That’s just one pot to clean — who doesn’t love that?
The Story of Ratatouille
Ratatouille most likely originated somewhere around Nice, which is in the southern region of France. Its name traces back to the French verb touiller, which means “to stir up.”
This provincial vegetable stew was a perfect way for French farmers to make use of their bountiful harvests back in the old days.
Because it originated in rural areas, ratatouille never enjoyed the special status of “gourmet cuisine.” A “poor man’s” stew that tastes like a complete summer harvest — that’s right up my alley!
Incidentally, this classic French dish is also very much an American one, since two of its key ingredients — zucchini and tomatoes — came from the Americas originally.
You might know ratatouille from that one Disney movie that your kids made you watch about a hundred times. Remember the look on the food critic’s face as that first bite took him back to his childhood?
Now, I can’t guarantee such a dramatic reaction. However, I’m certain the flavors of this rich vegetable stew will be a treat.
Ratatouille is actually a very wholesome meal that’s easy to make. Moreover, it’s perfect for those of us who have no idea what to do with the endless summer veggies we just got done harvesting.
The recipe below reflects the traditional style, in which the veggies are rough-chopped into 1 inch “cubes.” This version differs from the confit byaldi style of ratatouille made popular by the movie.
A Healthy and Tasty Side Dish
You may notice that this dish doesn’t feature any meat. That’s always been a problem for the boys in my family, so I usually serve it as a side. Ratatouille is great alongside a steak or some kind of tender meat dish.
Really, it’s a wonderfully versatile dish. Serve it on top of or alongside of anything you like — rice, noodles, even as a spread for sliced bread!
If you want more seasonal recipes like this one, get your hands on a copy of my Harvest Cookbook. You’ll have all the recipes you’ll need, all year round. If you order Harvest from my website, I’ll sign it for you for free!
Stacy Lyn’s Traditional Ratatouille
- 2 large eggplants cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 zucchini cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 summer squash cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 medium onions cut into wedges
- 4 cloves of garlic sliced
- 6 tablespoons olive oil for sautéing
- 3 red or yellow peppers deseeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 1 jalapeño pepper deseeded and minced
- small bunch of basil plus 6 small basil leaves
- a few sprigs of thyme
- 6 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped
- 16 oz canned plum tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 lemon
- In a large casserole pan or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the chopped eggplant, zucchini, squash, and peppers and fry for about 5 to 8 minutes. Do this in batches so that the vegetables brown instead of steaming. Cook until they are golden and soft. Remove vegetables to a bowl.
- In the same pan, add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, basil stalks, and thyme and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until vegetables are golden. Add salt and pepper.
- Add the cooked vegetables back to the pan along with the raw tomatoes, plum tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
- Gently stir. Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes, or until reduced and sticky.
- Adjust the seasonings. Grate the zest of 1/2 lemon and squeeze the juice over the ratatouille along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Serve over rice, noodles, or as a spread on rustic bread.