A lot of you probably already know how to make Ratatouille, but for those of you who don't - this recipe is for you and for my son, who requested it. And no, I don't make it anything like in the movie, where it is beautifully layered, but this version still tastes wonderful even though all the vegetables are cut into chunks. I first had Ratatouille in the South of France - in Nice to be exact and this dish still reminds me of the French Riviera. It is the perfect summer lunch with a crisp baguette slathered in fresh butter and a glass of wine.
Ratatouille is a combination of eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, tomatoes, onions and garlic. If you want to be a purist, you can dunk the tomatoes in a boiling water bath for a few minutes and peel off the skins and take the seeds out. But this is a rustic dish and I don't mind the peels and seeds at all. This dish also has beautiful contrasting colors so you know that there is some inherent Five Element balance to it. The olive oil and fresh basil add just the right note of extra interest to the fragrance of the dish - be sure to use a good Extra Virgin olive oil as you will taste the difference! You can serve this dish hot or you can serve it cold. It goes very well with a piece of grilled chicken or a steak, but I like it all by itself and I have been known to spoon leftovers out of the bowl straight out of the fridge. It's that good and it's very simple to make. It's also very good as a topping for Bruschetta when you have a party. Here's the recipe I learned years ago from a French friend:
1 small eggplant, stem cut off, sliced into 3/4 inch slices and thencut into small chunks, sprinkled with salt
1 medium zucchini, stem cut off and cut into quarters and then small chunks
1 red pepper, seeded and stem removed and cut into small chunks
4 large Roma Tomatoes, stem end removed and cut into chunks or 5 - 6 whole canned tomatoes chopped
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
6 leaves of fresh Basil, or 1 teaspoon of dried Basil
1 spring of fresh Thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
6 - 8 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Rinse eggplant and dry with paper towels. In a large frying pan, heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and add in garlic and onions. Cook until onions begin to get soft - about 2 - 3 minutes. Add in the eggplant chunks and cook until the eggplant starts getting soft - about 8 - 10 minutes. Then add in 3 more Tablespoons of olive oil and put in zucchini and red peppers. Cook for an additional 5 - 8 minutes until zucchini is cooked but still a bit firm. Then add in tomatoes, basil and thyme and a bit more olive oil if desired and simmer for about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Five Element Analysis
Eggplant is a Water Element vegetable, so that element is covered. Zucchini comes from the Earth Element and the Red Pepper and Tomatoes add the Fire Element. Olive Oil brings in the Wood Element and the onion, garlic, thyme and basil contribute the Metal Element. Guess what? This is a dish in balance all by itself - so you know it has to be good for you!