The Fourth of July calls for red, white and blue. But if it’s independence we’re celebrating, why not red, green, yellow and purple?
Ratatouille is a southern European, mid-summer, vegetarian casserole, ideal for when you return from the farmers market with way too much. The chickpeas make this a one-pot meal; bread crumbs are to thicken the broth. (Neither are part of a traditional ratatouille, and I haven’t yet found a recipe to mention stirring before serving, either. Layers are pretty, but so are mosaics.) Because the produce all is fresh, measurements cannot be precise. Here’s a ratio, though: Cut up, there should be about a quart each of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, and a pint each of onions and peppers. Count on 45 minutes to prep and 1.5 hours to bake. Adapted mainly from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
- 1.5 to 2 pounds eggplant (about 6 Oriental or 2 globe)
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided use
- 2 large onions, peeled and sliced
- 2 or 3 bell peppers, red, yellow or green, cored and seeded, cut in half-inch pieces
- 1 to 1.5 pounds zucchini or other summer squash, cut in half-inch slices
- 4–6 tomatoes, cut in half-inch cubes
- 1 14–15 oz. can chickpeas, drained
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 3 teaspoons dried herbs (thyme, oregano, tarragon, marjoram etc.) OR 1/4 cup fresh herbs, chopped roughly
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs or matzo meal
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or fresh basil
- Parmesan cheese
Peel the eggplant and cut into half-inch cubes if globe style, or half-inch slices if slender Oriental style. Place pieces in bowl, sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt and mix thoroughly. Place salted eggplant in colander placed in a bowl to catch the bitter liquid. Let sit no less than 30 minutes, while preparing the rest.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1 Tablespoon olive oil in medium (5–6 quart) casserole or Dutch oven, over the bottom and up the sides.
Rinse well the eggplant pieces in running water and drain. Fill the casserole in layers. While the order doesn’t matter, I like the onions and peppers on the bottom. Then the eggplant, squash, tomatoes, garlic and chickpeas. Mix the hot sauce with the remaining 3 Tablespoons olive oil and drizzle over the top. The pot will be nearly full.
Bake one hour covered. Once or twice during the hour press on the mixture with a spatula. Sprinkle bread crumbs or matzo meal over the mixture and bake another 15 minutes with no lid.
Stir well then garnish with parsley or basil. Serve with Parmesan cheese at the table. Makes 6–8 servings.
The leftovers are wonderful. Reheat as is. Or mix a couple of cups of cooled ratatouille with 4–6 cups cooked short pasta for a pasta salad, perhaps adding a little lemon juice.
Note: Other vegetables can be baked in the mix as well, if you’re clearing out the fridge and pantry or feeding a potluck. For example, 1–2 cups of sliced fresh mushrooms, green beans or cubed potatoes, along with the zucchini and tomatoes etc.