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Ratatouille

This is the real deal, classic preparation for France's most famous side dish. 


Ratatouille 101. Not tian, and not biyaldi like in the eponymous animated film. Ratatouille is traditionally red and green peppers (but you should use what you can find at the farmer’s market), eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, and onions and tomatoes with garlic, all sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper, and finished with thyme. And it is NOT sautéed all at once, like a vegetarian stir fry. It is sautéed in specific batches. Most important: each batch of vegetables is then strained of its excess fat and liquid so that the ratatouille is not watery. And finally, the strained sautéed vegetables get some fresh thyme and an hour in the oven to bake and become one, one non-watery compote of Provencal heaven. Voila!


Essential equipment: cutting board; chef's knife; paring knife; saucepan or stockpot; slotted spoon; mixing bowl; large sauté pan or wok; wooden spoon; colander/strainer or china cap; Dutch oven or casserole


Ingredients:

3 large or 6 roma tomatoes, peeled and diced*

2 red bell peppers, cut into ½-inch dice

2 green bell peppers, cut into ½-inch dice

1 large or 2 small eggplants, cut into ½-inch dice

2 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice

2 medium yellow squash, cut into ½-inch dice

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

olive oil (approximately 12 tablespoons, divided)

4 sprigs of thyme salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


*The process of peeling uncooked tomatoes is called "emonder" in French (Steps 1-3)


1. Place a saucepan or stockpot of water over high heat to bring to a simmer. While the water is heating, score the tomatoes on the bottom, making a shallow "X" mark. Then remove the top of the cores of each tomato. Prepare a mixing bowl with ice water. Set aside.



2. Place the tomatoes in the simmering water for 10-20 seconds until the skin appears to loosen at the "X."


ILOC tip: do not keep the tomatoes in the simmering water for too long. The goal is simply to remove the skin while keeping the tomatoes uncooked.

3. Using a slotted spoon, lift the tomatoes from the simmering water and submerge them in the ice water. Almost imediately, peel the skin from the tomatoes, beginning at the "X" mark. Discard the skins. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds from the ribs, then chop the tomatoes similarly sized to the other vegetables. Set aside.



"Ratatouille takes time and patience and cannot be hurried. That's why the vegetables must be sautéed in four separate batches, and then strained of excess liquid and fat. It's a process, but it's most definitely worth it. Technique...not torture!"

4. Heat a large sauté pan or wok, if using, over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté the peppers, sprinkled with kosher salt and stirring frequently, until softened without at all browning, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a strainer set over a bowl to catch any excess fat or moisture, for approximately 5 minutes. Place the peppers in a Dutch oven or casserole and set aside.


5. Wipe clean the pan and return it to high heat. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté the eggplant, sprinkled with kosher salt and stirring frequently, until softened without at all browning, about 6-7 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a strainer set over a bowl to catch any excess fat or moisture, for approximately 15 minutes. Add the eggplant to the peppers.



6. Wipe clean the pan and return it to high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté the zucchini and yellow squash, sprinkled with kosher salt and stirring frequently, until softened without at all browning, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a strainer set over a bowl to catch any excess fat or moisture, for approximately 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and squash to the peppers and eggplant.


7. Wipe clean the pan and return it to high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, reduce the heat to medium, and sauté the onion and crushed garlic, sprinkled with kosher salt and stirring frequently, until softened without at all browning, about 6-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a strainer set over a bowl to catch any excess fat or moisture, for approximately 20 minutes. Once strained, add to the peppers, eggplant, and squashes.



"Do not discard the strained liquid. Save it and make a delectable and flavorful hummus!"

8. While the onion-tomato mixture is straining, preheat the oven to 350F. Combine the sautéed vegetables in the Dutch oven or casserole, stirring well with a spoon. Sprinkle generously with freshly ground pepper and more kosher salt. Stir again, then tuck in the thyme sprigs. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour.



9. Remove the ratatouille from the oven, and uncover. Remove the thyme sprigs. Serve immediately or let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.


Makes 8 servings.



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