In an online article, author Ossiana Tepfenhart explains that there are lots of foods we now consider “fancy” that were once “poor man’s food.”
Dishes that fit the bill include lobster, oysters and even caviar.
Another dish that she could have included? Ratatouille.
The summer stew, native to Nice, France, was once considered a humble dish for humble folks, but now (probably thanks, in part, to the animated movie with the same name), it’s a meal that sounds luxurious and expensive.
I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely not expensive (or it shouldn’t be), and it’s actually deceptively easy to make, as long as you’re ready to do a lot of vegetable chopping.
It’s also a great dinner if you have a vegetarian eating at your table and can also suit vegans, as long as you substitute vegan parmesan into the recipe.
And I know this is technically a summer dish, but I can tell you there were still enough veggies hanging around at my local grocery store to accomplish this one, and as a hearty, warm meal, it suits these early fall days perfectly.
This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Bianca Zapatka. You can find it on her blog at https://biancazapatka.com/en/best-ratatouille-recipe/. I mostly used a video by the blog “One Dollar Kitchen” you can find on Pinterest. I added extra garlic in my version and replaced fresh herbs with dried.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 red pepper diced
- 1 yellow pepper diced
- 6-8 cloves garlic minced
- 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
- 4 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 small eggplant sliced
- 2 small yellow squash sliced
- 2 small zucchini sliced
- 6 roma tomatoes sliced
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- grated parmesan for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and saute until they’re soft. Add the garlic and saute until it’s fragrant.
- Add in the crushed tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper, and cook for a couple minutes.
- Arrange the eggplant, squash, zucchini and tomatoes in a spiral in the skillet, starting around the outside edge and working your way in. (Stand the slices up on their ends, rather than laying them flat, and arrange them tightly.)
- Mix the remaining olive oil with the rosemary and thyme in a small bowl, and spoon or brush the mixture as evenly as possible over the top of the vegetables. Top with more salt and pepper.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for one hour.
- Serve alone, with pasta or as a side dish and sprinkle servings with grated parmesan.
This has great depth of flavor, and we had an absolute ton of leftovers after making this for just two of us, so I would caution you to plan accordingly.
And after you make ratatouille at home, you can officially say you’ve practiced your French cooking. You don’t have to tell anyone its origins. After all, considering the prices nowadays of lobster, oysters or caviar, I think it’s safe to say things can change.
This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 14, 2021.
Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.