Julia Child’s Ratatouille
I discovered Julia Child through her cookbooks in the mid to late 1970s. It was a heady time for me. I was young — in my late twenties — and fresh from years of austerity enforced by working my way through college and graduate school. My husband was young, too, bright and ambitious and on the partner-track at a big, prestigious law firm. I was in love with him and with the new world that love and sufficient money opened up. For the first time ever, I could buy cookbooks and the best ingredients. I could explore new ways of cooking and eating every day of my life. And that’s pretty much what I did.
My love for Julia Child’s ratatouille began during that heady time and has not abated. With all the ingredients now in season and abundant in the market, it’s once again ratatouille time.
- 1 lb. eggplant
- 1/lb. zucchini
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6-7 tablespoons olive oil, more if necessary
- 1/2 lb. (about 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
- 1 pound firm red tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups pulp
- 2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- salt and pepper to taste
- Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide.
- Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices.
- Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.
- One layer at a time, saute the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.
- In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to tastes.
- Slice the tomato pulp into 3/8 inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice.
- Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil off several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated.
- Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of parsley.
- Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
- Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
- Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
- Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary.
- Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.
- Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time or serve cold.
This locally inspired recipe is brought to you by Pam Walker. Pam is an avid home cook, writer, and local farm and food activist who is also a board member of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute. Thank you, Pam, for helping inspire us to use locally sourced ingredients!