It’s August! And apparently one full month since I last updated. July was kind of a hectic month. And a hot month. But the few degrees cooler it has been so far in August seem to be making all the difference. I actually voluntarily went outside today to garden!
And in spite of the heat, it is a grand time of year as all the summer veggies are in their prime. When I made this the first time this summer, Mr. R, who in addition to the heat has been in the throes of studying for the bar exam, said to me, “now I remember why the summer is not awful!”
There really is nothing better than a perfectly summery ratatouille for dinner. I am not lying when I say I eat some version of this almost every single night all summer long. Sometimes more than once a day. Even though my garden has not worked out so well this summer — I have gotten just a handful of peppers, tomatoes and one eggplant (two if you count the baby one my dog ate off the plant) — there is luckily a farmer’s market a block away every Saturday and the Glut Food Coop down the street that sells local produce so I can stock up on all the ingredients for the week!
There is some debate over what constitutes a “traditional” ratatouille. Some like to cook the vegetables separately, some just throw it all together in one pot. The version I will write below is a more laborious one, but please do not let this deter you from whipping up a delicious summer stew of veggies any night of the week. If I’m short on time or just being lazy, I’ll just throw everything I have together and saute in one pot. Sometimes I’ll add chickpeas for protein, mushrooms or greens or other things I have on hand that may not normally go in a ratatouille. But it’s the same general concept so, whatever. Another interesting alternative would be to grill the squash/peppers/eggplant. I think I might try that tonight!
You’ll also note I’m rather sparse on details and measurements. I know I usually am. But ratatouille in particular is one that is better when just thrown together haphazardly.
4-5 fresh local tomatoes (if you’re gonna buy these from the grocery store in August, I mean, just don’t even bother!)
1 eggplant or two small eggplants, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled but not chopped
1-2 bell peppers, julienned
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (OK to substitute Italian seasoning or something similar)
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450°.
Gently saute an onion in a large pot in olive oil with the herbes de Provence and a few grinds of black pepper. In the meantime, peel and de-seed the tomatoes: score the bottoms and dunk in boiling water for 30 seconds each. Immediately move to ice water. The peels should come off easily with a little prodding. Scoop/squeeze as many seeds out as you can.
Deglaze the pot with about a quarter cup of wine (or a splash if vinegar in a pinch) Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add to the pot. Allow to simmer and cook down until nice and saucy.
Roast the remaining vegetables in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the garlic is nice and fragrant. You can smash it up or chop it at this point. Once the tomatoes are cooked down nicely, throw in the remaining vegetables. Cook in the pot until it is nice and stew-like. Or, to your preferred consistency.
Serve over pasta. Or rice. Or couscous. As always — there are no rules. It’s summer — go wild!