What?s for lunch? Ratatouille

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July 16, 2007

No, I don’t mean I’m munching on the little Pixar rat (though I would love to invite him and his genius creators over for a really good meal). Instead, I’m noshing on a great big bowl of fragrant, melt-in-your-mouth, totally veg ragout I just made. Matter of fact, the pot is still sitting on the stove until it cools enough for me to put in the fridge.

Ratatouille is one of my all-time favorite summer foods to make because it’s super-simple, ultra-versatile and absolutely foolproof. I also have a sentimental attachment to ratatouille—and every time I chop up the onions, zucchini, eggplant and peppers to make it, I remember the summer I spent in the French Alps when I was seventeen and my host family devoted a whole afternoon to making huge batches of the stuff to freeze for winter.

Actually, (once the chopping was done) we devoted the afternoon to sitting in the sunshine on the terrace reading and talking and occasionally going inside to stir the pot. That’s how easy it is. As for the versatile part – I’ve been coming up with new ways to use it ever since. I use it to fill quiches, crêpes, omelets and lasagnas. It’s a fantastic pasta topping (with plenty of cheese) makes a yummy tapas-style appetizer hot or cold, and can even be blended into a hot or cold soup.

But don’t take my word for it—try for yourself. And feel free to play around with the ingredient quantities: I’ve made it without eggplant when I didn’t think I liked it (just add an extra zucchini or two), without garlic when I dated a guy who was allergic, and today (full disclosure) without bell peppers, because I forgot to buy them.


Makes 4 cups

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks

3 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped, or 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes

2 Tbs. herbes de Provence

Heat oil in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, and cook 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Stir in eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and herbes de Provence. Season with salt and pepper, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook 30 minutes, or until zucchini and eggplant are tender, stirring occasionally.

— Mary Margaret Chappell, food editor