Ratatouille – NOT the Disney rodent

One of the things I have made with eggplant is ratatouille. Part of it is probably just the magic of being able to say that word… ratatouille. It’s musical isn’t it? Or maybe it’s just me…

Anyhoo – Always on the lookout for vegetable side dishes, preferably ones my son will eat, I capitalized on the movie when it came out and made this dish for my family. It’s easy, I mean SERIOUSLY easy. Tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini (or yellow squash), bell peppers, onions, and garlic. However, I also found the traditional recipe to be a little bit boring. Never one to turn down the opportunity to fire up the oven, or to dirty another dish, I found that roasting the vegetables and adding more seasoning made this dish much less pedestrian. So with apologies to Martha Stewart, whose original recipe I used, here’s my Roasted Ratatouille

Ingredients:
Olive oil (you’ll want enough to coat the veggies, the onion, and a little more to cook the garlic)
2 medium onions, chopped – but not too small, about 1/2 inch or so
4 or 5 cloves garlic, diced
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 to 5 medium squash (I use a mix of zucchini and yellow), cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 bell peppers, (yellow, orange, or red) with ribs and seeds removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried thyme, or 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the cubed eggplant, squash, and bell pepper. Add a bit of olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Pour vegetables out onto a foil lined sheet pan, arranging in a single layer.

In the same bowl add onion. There may be enough oil in the bowl left to coat the onions, if not, add as needed. Season with salt and pepper, and turn out onto a separate foil lined sheet pan or small baking dish. Place BOTH pans into oven. Roast until the vegetables start to get tender and a bit brown. Keep an eye on them! You don’t want them to burn, and the onions WILL finish first. If you find that the peppers are browning too much before the eggplant and squash, pull them off the pan as they become done.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven (or other heavy 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid), heat a little olive oil over medium heat, and add the garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and thyme and bring to a boil. By this point your onions are probably done, so as they finish in the oven, pour them into the pot with the tomatoes and garlic and stir well. The rest of the vegetables will be nearly finished by now, so add them to the pot once they are ready. Bring the vegetables to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover; simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil if serving immediately.

This recipe freezes well, just leave out the fresh basil. When reheating, add the basil right before serving; the heat from the dish works its magic to draw that basil flavor into the mix.

For convenience, you can also roast all your vegetables to completion before starting the tomato base. That way you can pay strict attention to your veggies without worrying that they will burn. Remember when you add all the roasted components to dump the whole pan in, you want the oil and any juices in the bottom of the pan. Eat this as a side dish, toss with pasta, you can even rest a little grilled chicken on top for an all in one dinner. Roasting gives the vegetables much more flavor, adding them and their juices along with more seasoning to the tomato base really helps round things out and mute that very “in your face” flavor that tomatoes can sometimes have. Delicious!

Oh, and for what it’s worth… my son didn’t like it. Go figure.

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