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Easy Winter Ratatouille

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Laura Kumin
Laura Kumin

I love ratatouille, a French vegetable stew typically made with garlic, yellow summer squash and/or zucchini, onions, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.  The vegetables are cooked in several stages, so it is a bit time consuming to prepare, but the reward is a fragrant and delicious vegetarian dish that you can serve hot, at room temperature, or even right out of the refrigerator. 

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Because its flavors meld over time, ratatouille is an ideal dish to prepare in advance, then re-heat the next day, or bring to room temperature standing on the counter for an hour or two as you prepare dinner, a holiday brunch, or an open house table. 

Juicy, ripe tomatoes are essential for ratatouille, both for flavor and the liquid in which the vegetables simmer. Until mid-November, I can usually get wonderful tomatoes at local farmers' markets and even sometimes at grocery stores. As winter approaches, good fresh tomatoes are hard to find, so I normally put thoughts of ratatouille aside. Recently, however, when I had a hankering for ratatouille, and no decent fresh tomatoes on hand or easily obtainable, I decided to substitute good quality canned tomatoes. 

That change put me in the mood to experiment further.  Instead of using them in either of my "go-to" ratatouille recipes -- one from my ancient New York Times Cook Book, edited by Craig Claiborne (1961 edition), and the other from Chef Patrice Olivon through my friend Rachel -- I worked out a "mash up" recipe that takes elements from each of those, with my own twists.  My official taste tester proclaimed this version delectable and just as good as those I previously relied upon.
 
Easy Winter Ratatouille  (Approximately 4-5 cups)
Servings - 4-6   Cost - $4.50/less than $1.25 per serving 
Ingredients 

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  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed or finely chopped
  • 1 cup yellow onions, cut into small but not tiny pieces
  • 2-3 cups zucchini or zucchini mixed with yellow squash, cut into small chunks 
  • 2 cups eggplant, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 peppers any color, cut into small chunks
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ cups good quality canned tomatoes and their juice
  • 1½ teaspoon fresh or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

Equipment

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  • Knife
  • Garlic press (optional)
  • Vegetable peeler (optional - you can peel eggplant with a small knife if you are careful)
  • 2 bowls
  • Measuring spoons
  • 1 cup measure
  • Wooden spoon (this isn't just a pitch for wooden spoons, which I do love; objectively wood works better than metal to scrape - and save - the delicious bits on the bottom of the pan without ruining your pan.
  • Large, heavy skillet (pan with high sides) with a cover that fits tightly.  The pan must be large enough to allow the squash and eggplant cubes to cook in a single layer. 

Preparation 
For step-by-step directions, including photographs, click here.