Ratatouille is a traditional French Provencal dish of stewed vegetables, originating in Nice. In fact, the full name is actually ratatouille nicoise. It's usually served as a side dish, but can also be a meal on its own. The vegetables needed for ratatouille include: garlic and onions, courgettes (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant) poivron (peppers) and tomatoes, in addition the following herbs: basil, oregano, marjoram and thyme . Julia Child made this dish by first sauteing the courgettes and aubergine, then, she layered these vegetables with the other ingredients in a casserole and baked it in the oven. I have also seen recipes where the vegetables are grilled first and then layered to bake.
However, I have my own unique version--I like to roast my vegetables sans the tomatoes, then, place everything in a Dutch oven to cook on top of the stove adding canned "Fire-roasted" tomatoes. I usually serve it as a side dish, but yesterday, I also made polenta that I grilled as a base for my ratatouille.
2 medium aubergines (eggplants), peeled, sliced and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2-3 medium courgettes (zucchini) sliced and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 head of garlic, peeled and diced
1 large shallot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 can (28oz) Muir Glen Fire Roasted Whole Tomatoes
1 can (16 oz) Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 tsp. dried Oregano
1 tsp. dried Basil
1/2 tsp. dried Majorem
1/2 tsp. dried Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for roasting
Preheat oven to 400F-degrees.
Prepare the vegetables. Place all the vegetables, except the tomatoes, in a large bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup or more of olive oil. Transfer the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
Roast vegetables for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes for even browning. I started the polenta while the vegetables were roasting. When the vegetables have reached a golden brown color, transfer to a 6-quart Dutch oven. Add the canned tomatoes--for the whole tomatoes, I squeezed them in my hands to break them up while I added them.
Cover pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir and lower temperature to a simmer.
I used Bob's Red Mill polenta and followed the directions on the back of the packaging. I added a cup of cheese mixture--mozzarella, fontina, and Parmesan. When it had thickened, I poured it onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Spread evenly then, cover with parchment and let set for an hour. It will firm up and I cut it into squares, then, triangles. I brushed the top side of the triangle with a little olive oil and place it "face down" onto a hot grill pan. I grilled it over medium/high heat for about 5 minutes each side, brushing the top side before turning it.
As a vegetarian, this was a complete meal for me, but I did a piece of salmon and a few shrimp on a alder plank for my hubby. Sprinkle the top with additional grated Parmesan.
This is a wonderful dish to celebrate the harvest! I felt like I was back in my grandparent's kitchen, bringing in baskets of vegetables to decide what we'd make. Enjoy!