Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Classics: Ratatouille

Winter is still in full force, but tonight saw me cooking summer on the stove. I've been trying to work more veggies into our menu and this week decided to tackle ratatouille (I can't stop saying 'rat patootie'). It was ridiculously cheap to make and came out *so* good! As good is it came out, this dish simply begs to be made in the summer when everything is in season, but you work with what you've got. I also made way too much, but then what else is new. As I stood at the stove, maniacally stirring the big stock pot full of veg, B commented that I was meant to live in Quebec in the '50s when families averaged somewhere around a dozen children, plus the extended family and housewives cooked enough to feed a small army at each meal. Seeing the almost-overflowing pot tonight, I can't really argue with that.

Ratatouille
3 zucchini, diced
4 bell peppers, diced (I used one of each color)
1 eggplant, diced
2 cartons button mushrooms, quartered
2 yellow onions, chopped
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
3 can diced tomatoes (or crushed)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. sherry vinegar (or balsamic)
small handful of herbs to taste, I used herbes de provence
salt and pepper to taste

Heat large pot and add oil. Sautee onions until lightly caramelized, then add cabbage and continue cooking until soft and transparent. Add a pinch of salt at this point to help the process along. Add mushrooms and allow to sweat, then add rest of veggies, tomatoes and spices. Stir well and bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for at least 45 minutes, longer if possible. Veggies will release liquid as they break down, so the longer you can allow it to simmer the more concentrated the flavors will be. The vinegar is optional, and depends on the acidity of your tomatoes... you may want to add a little sugar to balance it out if you find it too acidic. Mine was just right with the splash of vinegar and no sugar, added just the right amount of brightness. You can experiment and adjust to taste, of course.
I served it with thick polenta and some fresh parmesan cheese, very tasty! Would also pair well with pasta or potatoes or... well, any starch that strikes your fancy, I suppose.

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