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Friday, July 15, 2016

Ratatouille:

About:

Ratatouille (ra - ta - too - ee) is a traditional French Provencal dish originating in Nice.  Commonly reffered to as 'ratatouille nicoise', ratatouille is popular along the entire Mediterranean as an easy summer dish.
Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish with dinner, but is also used in breakfast and lunch settings.  Ratatouille is sometimes eaten as a meal of its own accompanied by pasta, rice or bread. 



Tomatoes lay a foundation for sautee'd garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, marjoram, fennel, and basil. or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs like herbs de Provence.  It is usually prepared as a stew of squash.

History:

The word 'ratatouille' comes from Occitan ratatolha and the recipe comes from Occitan cuisine.  Related dishes exist in many Mediterranean cuisines.  The name "ratatouille" for the dish first appeared in print in 1930, but the word has been used since the late 18th century.  Ratatouille is also the name of a 2007 American computer-animated comedy film produced by Pixar and released by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, featuring an anthropomorphic rat who aspires to cook.

My Story:

I had actually never heard of ratatouille until the movie came out.  I was familiar with caponata, which is an Italian version of ratatouille.  I like caponata very much.  The first time I had ratatouille was at a family dinner at a fish restaurant.  One of our nephews was working at this restaurant as a waiter, and it was decided that we would all go out to dinner there one night.  Well, ratatouille was on the menu, so I ordered it.  It was delicious.  So, now when I think of ratatouille, I think of that dinner with everyone there at a long table eating ratatouille. 

Ratatouille Methods:

There is much debate on how to make traditional ratatouille .  One method is to simply saute' all the vegetables together.  In the layering method approach eggplant and zucchini are sautee'd separately and the tomatoes, onion, garlic and bell peppers are made into a sauce.  The ratatouille is then layered in a casserole-eggplant, zucchini, and tomato/pepper mixture- then baked in  the oven.  A 3rd method is to combine all the ingredients in a large pot and simmer.
Joel Rabuchon in 'The Complete Rabuchon' states, "The secret of a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so that each will taste truly of itself."

Feeling adventurous?  Try ratatouille !

Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.


Recipe for Ratatouille:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 TBS olive oil
3/4 lb. eggplant, cubed 
1 small zucchini, quartered an d cut into small pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped 3/4 lb. ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/4 tsp dried thyme, crumbled
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp fennel seed
3/4 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1/2 c. shredded fresh basil leaves

In a large skillet cook onion and garlic in 2 TBS olive oil until onion is soft..  Add remaining 3 TBS oil and heat through.  Add eggplant, cook 8 minutes stirring occaisonally.  Stir in the zucchini and bell pepper and cook for 12 minutes stirring occaisonally.  Stir in tomatoes and cook 5 minutesor until tender.  Stir in oregano, thyme, coriander, fennel seeds, salat, and pepper.  Cook for 1 minute.  Stir in basil and combine well.  
Ratatouille may be made 1 daay in advance.  Keep covered and chilled.  Reheat before serving. 




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