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France—Ratatouille

 

French Sideratatouille

Zucchini & Eggplant Stew
Ratatouille
(Serves 12)

It's hard not to dream of sunny Provence when you try this dish, a delightful concoction of Mediterranean vegetables and seasonings.


1/2 C olive oil
3 lbs. eggplant, small ones are best (skin on, 1 1/2"
   cubes)
2 tsp. salt
2 T olive oil
1/4 C chicken broth (or more as needed) *
1 medium onion (coarsely chopped)
4 medium zucchini (1 1/2" cubes)
2 medium red or yellow peppers (1/2" strips)
1 medium green pepper (1/2" strips)
3 large cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
2 16-oz. cans Italian tomatoes (drained)
4 oz. tomato paste
2 T dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of cayenne
1/4 C fresh parsley (chopped)
1/4 C fresh dill (chopped)—optional **

Eggplant: preheat oven to 375. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant cubes with 1/2 C oil and salt; turn into a foil-lined baking pan. Cover pan and bake for 15 minutes, till eggplant is just soft and glistening (be careful not to overcook; it has more cooking yet to do). Set aside.

Zucchini, et al: Using the 2 T oil, sauté onion, zucchini, and peppers in a large skillet, adding more oil (or small amounts of chicken broth) if it becomes too dry. Cook 10-15 minutes, stirring and tossing, till vegetables are just soft. Add garlic and cook 3 more minutes (don’t let garlic burn). Add tomatoes, paste and remaining ingredients and simmer 10 more minutes. Add eggplant mixture to pot and simmer 10-15 more minutes. Serve at any temperature (it’s delicious warm, cold, or at room temperature).

* Using chicken broth cuts down on the amount of oil needed. Small amounts are wonderful for sauteing.

** Dill, not always thought of as a Mediterranean herb (although it grows there), adds a distinct brightness to this dish.

| See more French recipes |

Tips & Glossary

Bouquet Garni: (boo-kay gar-nee) bundle of herbs tied together with string or wrapped in cheese cloth square; usually parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Flavor is released during long cooking.Remove before serving.

Chervil: (sher-vil) related to parsley but has a delicate anise flavor. Long cooking kills flavor, so add at the last minute.

Cornichon (kor-nee-shon) teeny-tiny pickle, served with pates & smoked meats; found in specialty food stores.

Fines Herbes: (feen-airb) mix of finely chopped herbs: parsley, chives, tarragon, & chervil. Not as strong as a bouqet garni. Buy it at most grocery stores.

Fromage: (fra-mahj) Cheese! The French eat more than any nationality, 45 pounds per capita per year; and the country makes more cheeses than any other country, about 400.

The three great pedigreed French cheeses are:
• Brie (East of Paris)
• Camembert (Normandy)
• Roquefort (Southwest France, from sheep’s milk)

There are also wonderful lesser-known cheeses:
• Beaufort (Rhone Alps, hard, yellow Gruyere-type)
• Chevre (Loire Valley, soft, goat’s milk)
• Comte (Alps region, hard, yellow Gruyere-type)
• Emmental (Alps region, “Swiss” cheese with holes)
• Gruyere (hard, yellow cheese—originally French, now most is Swiss)
• Tomme (means “cheese”; soft, many varieties, all from skim milk)

Herbes de Provence (airb-duh-pro-vonce): mix of dried herbs, usually thyme, rosemary, marjoram, basil, & bay leaf Can be found at most grocery stores.

Mutarde: (moo-tard), mustard. Most famous:
• Dijon ( from the town in Burgundy)
• Meaux (from Meaux, east of Paris; whole-grained; made by Pommery).

Nicoise Olive: (nee-swaz- oh-leev) small, purplish-black olive with a mellow, nutty flavor; used primarily in Salade Nicoise. The Picholine variety is a green, medium-sized olive with a light, nutty flavor.

Roux: (roo) paste-like mix of melted butter and flour, into which liquid is gradually added. The basis of every classic French sauce.
Basic Roux: 1 part butter to 1 part flour. Melt butter and add flour, stirring vigorously, till it becomes a paste-like consistency. At this point, add slowly whatever liquid your recipe calls for

 

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