For me, ratatouille is the definition of high summer—rich colors, fresh ripe vegetables, dinners outside with friends and family…
Yield: 3 quarts / 12 cups
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions (1 lb.), diced large
1 head garlic, cloves smashed and peeled
1 large eggplant (1 lb.), cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large zucchini (1 lb.), diced large
2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow), diced large
1 can (28-ounces) whole peeled tomatoes
16 pitted Kalamata olives, sliced in half (or more)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon basil pesto
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
Thin slivers of basil leaves
Slices of kalamata olives
In a large skillet, cook the onion and the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and heat it over moderately high heat until it is hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is softened. Stir in the zucchini and the bell peppers and cook the mixture over the moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until they are tender. Stir in the tomatoes and olives and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the bay leaf, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the basil pesto and herbes de Provence and combine the mixture well. Continue cooking, if needed, until the vegetable juices have reduced and thickened. Stir in balsamic vinegar and cook until the flavors have balanced and melded.
Garnish each bowl with capers, fresh basil (if available), kalamata olives, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. I like to serve ratatouille over polenta*, or with warm olive bread.
Ratatouille only improves with age—if you have the will power, save it for the next day!
(*Polenta is nothing more than coarsely ground cornmeal cooked into a silky cereal. The classic ratio is 1 part polenta to 4 parts water, but I like to measure the polenta just a little scant of a full cup. I often use vegetable broth instead of water. It’s a perfect base for any kind of saucy vegetable dish or mushroom ragout.)