No, not the movie, although the movie is wonderful, especially for foodies. I'm talking about the French vegetable stew, a perfect dish to make at this time of year. I was inspired to write about it, and offer a recipe, when a visit to the garden revealed baby eggplants and luscious green bell peppers.
Ratatouille is composed of eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, onions, garlic, and herbs. Julia Child, in her classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, insists that each vegetable must be cooked separately "before it is arranged in the casserole to partake of a brief communal simmer," in order that each vegetable retain "its own shape and character." For the film Ratatouille, the American chef Thomas Keller used his version of ratatouille, confit byaldi, fanned out on a plate.
Well, I'm not that fancy--or patient. I simply simmer the vegetables all together in a pot and enjoy the delicious flavors of Provence. You may also simmer the stew in a 350 degree oven for an hour, as does Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything).
The ingredients are humble, but the taste is divine. I have been known to serve this as a main dish with homemade bread and a bit of good cheese.
2 T. olive oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs. eggplant, cut into chunks
2 green bell peppers, cut into squares
2 medium zucchinis, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 plum tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
fresh herbs such as thyme, marjoram, rosemary, bay leaf, basil, and parsley, to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onions and garlic until softened. Add the eggplant and stir to coat with oil. Add the peppers and stir well. Now cover the skillet and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add the tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs, stir to mix well, cover the skillet and cook on low heat until the eggplant is nice and tender, probably about 15 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil over. Garnish with more fresh herbs, if desired.