Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HGK's Ratatouille Recipe

My love affair with ratatouille dates back to my junior year in college. My roommate, Becki, then a graduating senior, prepared it for her parents the weekend that they came up to Ithaca for her graduation. Becki invited me to join them for the feast she had prepared and I never forgot the rich, sort-of-sweet taste of those stewed vegetables.

My mother, a world-class cook, had been making ratatouille regularly for years, but it wasn't until that moment with Becki that I really appreciated how delicious it was. Becki had gone to one of the libraries on campus and borrowed a cookbook. Who knows who the author of the cookbook was? It was so long ago. Only the memory of the taste remains.

So I set out to recreate the same flavor and texture I remembered from that night. Was it the carrots that gave it it's unique sweetness? The tomato paste? The slow cooking? Whatever it is, I love it. And I love Becki.

HGK's Ratatouille {vegan/oil-free}
serves a crowd

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1 large eggplant, cut into 1" cubes (approximately 9 cups)
vegetable broth, for sauteing
1 very large onion, diced (approximately 4 cups)
8 cloves garlic, minced (2 heaping Tbsp)
2 cups medium dice carrots
1 very large red pepper, medium dice (or orange or yellow, approximately 3 cups)
6 cups chopped tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp parsley
1 large zucchini, cut into 1" cubes (approximately 6 cups)
1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1" cubes (approximately 4 cups)
salt, to taste (or not)
1/2-1 tsp ground pepper

serving suggestions:
baked potatoes
whole wheat cous cous
whole wheat or other pasta

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place cubed eggplant on a parchment paper lined baking sheet (it's okay if cubes are piled on each other) and bake for 30 minutes.

Place a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Line the base of the pot with vegetable broth. When broth is boiling, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Lower heat to prevent burning if necessary.

Add garlic and stir. Cook for 3 minutes, watching heat to prevent burning.

Add carrots and stir. Cook for 10 minutes. Add broth and adjust heat if necessary to prevent burning.

Add red pepper, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, basil and parsley and stir. Return heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes. The stew should come to a simmer and not a boil.

Add zucchini and yellow squash and stir. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add roasted eggplant cubes and stir. Taste and add salt (or not) and pepper. Let simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Serve alone, over baked potatoes, whole wheat cous cous, pasta or warm polenta. Can be served cold, warm or hot.

What's your relationship with ratatouille? Do you have a favorite way of preparing it? 

Do you have a food memory that you are itching to recreate? What is it?

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