Ratatouille: from Julia Child’s master recipe in The Way to Cook
‘Tis the season for ratatouille. All the ingredients are appearing in abundance at the market. My favorite recipe is Julia Child’s in The Way to Cook. My experience accords with hers, that the best ratatouilles entail cooking the vegetables separately because they retain their distinctive textures and flavors this way.
Like many dishes that include tomatoes, ratatouille is best served the day after making it. And it is served hot, warm, or cold.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- 1 pound fresh, shiny, firm eggplant
- Salt as needed
- 1 pound zucchini
- ¼ – 1/3 cup olive oil, as needed
- Thyme, oregano, or a bottled herb blend
- 1 pound (3 ½ cups) onions, sliced
- 3 large cloves of garlic, pureed
- 3 cups tomato pulp (fresh tommatoes peeled, seeded, juiced, or, out of season, hjalf fresh tom
- Tomatoes and half drained and seeded canned plum tomatoes
1 or 2 lightly oiled jelly-roll pans for baking eggplant; a 12-inch frying pan for sauteeing; a lightly oiled 3 ½ to 3 quart covered casserole 2 inches deep for final cooking
Remove green caps but do not peel the eggplant; cut it into lengthwise or crosswise slices 3/8 inch thick. Salt the zucchini slices, as for the eggplant. Let both vegetables stand 20 minutes; pat dry in paper towel.
Baking the eggplant
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the eggplant in the jelly-roll pans, paint lightly with oil, and sprinkle with herbs. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15 – 20 minutes, until just tender, but do not overcook; the slices must hold their shape.
The rest of the vegetables
Film the frying pan with 1/16 inch of olive oil. Dry the zucchini slices, and brown lightly on each side; remove to paper towel. Adding a little more oil if necessary, saute the onions until tender but not browned. Stir in the peppers and garlic; fold and toss over moderately high heat for several minutes, until fairly tender. Set aside ½ cup of the tomatoes. Fold the rest into the onions and peppers; toss, adding salt and herbs to taste, until the tomatoes have rendered their juice; continue for several minutes until the juices have almost boiled off.
Finishing the ratatouille – about thirty minutes
Set aside 4 of the best-looking slices of eggplant for final decoration. Arrange the rest of the vegetables in several layers in the casserole, starting and ending with the onion-pepper-tomato mixture. Arrange the reserved tomato and eggplant decoratively over the top. Cover and bring to the simmer over moderate heat, either on top of the stove or in a 325 degree F oven. When bubbling gently, uncover, tip the casserole, and baste with the juices rendered; repeat several times until the juices have almost evaporated.
Serve hot, warm, or 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!