almost summer ratatouille


In true springtime fashion, the weather here in Sydney has been very unpredictable. But when you catch a good day, it’s a great one.

Yesterday felt dangerously close to summer, including a very packed Bondi Beach. I had to seize this day of summer while I had it (knowing it was scheduled to turn rainy and cold within 24 hours).  I spent the afternoon reading on the beach and made the quintessentially French summertime dish, ratatouille for dinner.

Due largely to this article on Food52, I decided to make the Alice Waters version of ratatouille. I briefly considered some other recipes, including the one featured in the Pixar movie about that enthusiastic kitchen rat (which is actually Thomas Keller’s recipe). But who can say no to cooking summer veggies a la the Mother of American Food? Not this patriot.

The dish turned out perfect, in my opinion. Ratatouille is one of those dishes that is divisive among its fans. One woman’s perfect ratatouille is not the same as another’s. But that’s life I guess, and this ratatouille suited me especially well on a summer-y evening accompanied by a slice of Sonoma kalamata olive sourdough and a spoonful (or two) of ricotta.

Alice Waters’ Ratatouille (adapted from The Art of Simple Food)
– Olive Oil (Approximately 4 tablespoons, use more as needed)
– 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
– 1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
– 5 garlic cloves, chopped
– 1/2 bunch of basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine and a handful of basil leaves, chopped
– Pinch dried chile flakes
– 3 sprigs of thyme, picked
– 1 red capsicum, cut into 1/2-inch dice
– 1 carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
– 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
– 3 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
– Salt&Pepper to taste

  1. Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove the eggplant when done and set aside.
  3. In the same pot, pour in 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, basil bouquet, dried chile flakes, thyme and a bit more salt.
  4. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in the carrot. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in zucchini. Cook few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes longer, then stir in eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all its flavors, and add for salt, if needed.
  6. Stir in the chopped basil leaves. Serve warm or cold.