Ratatouille has its roots in Provence, and commonly associated with Nice. It is something of a melange of vegetables, stewed or braised with the seasonings of the region… Thyme, Garlic, Basil, etc. … but there are many variations. The main ingredients typically include Eggplant, tomato, onion, and bell pepper, but zucchini and fennel often appear, with mushrooms and black olives being added in some recipes.
Most traditionally, the main ingredients are individually sautéed with a little olive oil, and then finally cooked together until everything gets nicely blended with a rich ‘creaminess’. These days, Balsamic vinegar is often added, with white wine also being used in some cases. The dish could be served hot, as a side dish, but it is often served at room temperature, on its own, or with other foods, essentially in the manner of a relish.
For today’s recipe, I am also doing a two stage cooking but, here, I am roasting some of the vegetables before-hand and then letting them sit overnight with some aromatics to develop flavor before finishing with the ‘saucier’ portion of the recipe …
Here, I am using one small eggplant, one small zucchini, one small red pepper, and one large tomato, all cut into large dice. They are drizzled with olive oil, and a pinch of dried thyme, oregano and parsley are added along with a little black pepper.
You want to roast the vegetables in a pan (not too over-crowded), at about 500 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until you see a just a little charring here and there. Once this happens, remove the pan from the oven and let it all cool.
Now, toss the vegetables in a bowl (gently) with a splash of white wine, a tablespoon or two of capers, and a tablespoon of Basil Paste. If you want the flavor of Basil, and prefer to use fresh leaves, just tear then in strips and add them in the final cooking step rather than here so that they don’t turn unpleasantly dark. Cover the bowl and stick it in the fridge overnight.
To make the ‘sauce’ for the finished relish, chop up a couple of small tomatoes and cook them in a little olive oil over medium heat until they collapse, adding a bit of water from time to time so that you don’t dry things out too much. Next, coarsely chop a small onion and add the pieces along with a pinch or two of sugar and a moderately generous splash of Balsamic Vinegar. Cook until the onions are translucent but still have a bit of ‘bite’ and then let the mix cool down. Finally, gently stir in the main ingredient. You can serve now, or let it sit in the fridge to further develop flavors. In future posts, I will be looking at some ways to serve this dish, hot and cold, but, for a nice way to sample the result, try it at room temperature with nothing more than good crusty bread lightly buttered and a wine of your choice (perhaps a bit of cheese on the side, maybe?).