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Monday, March 09, 2009

Ratatouille Niçoise


As most wonderful cook books often note: In the early days, this traditional Provençal dish was an unassuming meal for the farmers, made with fresh summer vegetables, mainly courgettes (zucchini), onions, tomatoes, peppers, garlic and some herbs de Provençe.

Though not quite the conventional Niçoise recipe of stewed vegetables, originating (as the name implies) in Nice, this version of ratatouille was inspired by Paul Gayler's Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook. As always, I took some epicurean-license with Paul Gayler's recipe here to adjust to my taste.

I try to make a version of this during summers with vegetables from our garden, but, what with it still snowing and rather gloomy, I decided to make it anyway as a hearty winter night stew.

2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 medium Japanese/Chinese eggplant, diced fairly large
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1-2 red and/or green peppers, chopped to bite-size
6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed
3-4 medium tomatoes -or- 1 14oz can of stewed tomatoes
1 Tbsp herbs de provençe
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
¼ cup chopped spring onions
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp paprika
¼ cup dry white wine** (optional)
2-4 Tbsp olive oil
** I use local Pinot Gris (made in Oregon), but low-end Sauvignon Blanc is good too

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan, add the zucchini a pinch of salt and paprika and toss around till browned on the outside and cooked a bit; remove from pan, keep aside
  2. Heat a little more olive oil in the same pan, add the eggplant and bell peppers, a pinch of salt and paprika and cook till mostly done; remove from pan, keep aside
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp of the remaining oil in the same pan, sauté the onions, garlic and tomato paste till aromatic and the tomato paste turns deep red and cooks through
  4. Add the stewed tomatoes, toss in the zucchini, eggplant and peppers, salt to taste, cover and simmer to desired consistency (I prefer it fairly dry, not soggy) adding water or vegetable stock as needed
  5. Add the white wine, if using, stir in herbs de provençe and simmer a few minutes more
  6. Garnish with chopped or torn basil leaves and/or spring onions
  7. Optionally, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and add the basil leaves, toss around till aromatic and drizzle over the ratatouille before serving

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