Ratatouille. Yes, I loved the movie, too. However, the dish delights me because it’s like soul food for vegetarians. Rustic, comfy, simple food that is bursting with flavor without being smothered in cheese or hidden under sauce (although those types of comfort foods have their deeply satisfying merits, pierogie pizza – I’m looking at you). Also the one-pot dish factor makes it enticing whether you own only one pot or the dishwasher is full. You can serve it as a savory side dish to meat or fish, or eat it as we do: a big bowl full of the hearty stew with a scoop of cooked grains (quinoa or couscous or even rice will do). Either way, just make sure you have plenty of fresh, hot French bread to sop up the delicious sauce!
Adapted from The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook
6 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 eggplant (about 1lb)
1 zucchini (about 12 oz)
1 green pepper
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh basil, shredded
Boil water in a medium sized pot. Fill a bowl with ice cold water. Use a sharp knife to cross the base of the tomatoes and plunge into the boiling water for 10 seconds, then into the cold water. Peel the skins off away from the cross. Chop roughly.
Chop eggplant, zucchini, and bell pepper into equal size pieces (about 3/4 inch). Cook eggplant over medium heat in olive oil until soft but not brown, about 4 minutes, and then set aside. Cook zucchini in olive oil until softened, about 3 minutes, and then set aside. Cook pepper in olive oil for about 2 minutes and then set aside.
Add some more olive oil to the pot and cook the onion until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne pepper, thyme, and bay leaves. Stir and cook for one minute and add the eggplant, zucchini, and green pepper back to the pot. Stir well and add the tomatoes, sugar, and vinegar. Stir well again and simmer for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add fresh basil as you take it off the heat.