I have not posted this dish, which is a favorite of mine, because it is a bit of a chore to make it right. But its time has come. The occasion was dinner for four. I served soft shell crabs on a bed of ratatouille.
Ratatouille is a vegetable stew always comprised of equal portions of these five veggies: tomato, onions, egg plant, zucchini and bell peppers. If not, it ain't ratatouille, it's something else.
1. All the veggies are to be diced, not chopped carelessly.
2. Start with the tomatoes (about one per serving): Prepare a small pot of boiling water and another of ice water. Cut a shallow X through the skin in the bottom of each tomato and gently drop them into the boiling water. After fifteen seconds, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice bath. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Then cut and dice the tomatoes, bite sized and save the juice. Set aside. (If tomatoes are out of season or otherwise look awful, good canned tomatoes--such as Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes work great, juice and all.)
3. Gather up a bouquet of thyme and parsley (stems too), bay leaves and pepper corns and stuff them all into a sachet (bag) or onto a square of cheese cloth then tied off into a bag. Set aside for next step.
4. Peel and dice the onions. Then in a large heavy pot, sweat the onions to translucent in a generous amount of EVOO. Then add the tomatoes and juice. Add
the sachet of spices and simmer the whole mess until the tomatoes soften and look tender. 15 minutes, or so.
5. Peel the egg plant, cut off the ends, stand it upright and cut away about a half inch of rounded side to make a flat surface. Then cut away 1/2 inch thick flat
slabs. Dice each slab into cubes 1/2 x 1/2 inch. (Don't bother to salt the egg plant, beforehand.) Set aside for step 8.
6. Cut the zucchini lengthwise and then cut crosswise pieces about 3/4 inch think. Set aside for step 8.7. Core and seed the bell peppers (green or red or both) and cut into squares about 3/4 inch in size. Set aside for step 8.
8. Using one or two saute pans and generous amounts of EVOO, saute the egg plant cubes, the zucchini pieces and the bell pepper squares SEPERATELY until each is softened and tender. Season each with a little salt and pepper. (The egg plant will suck up a lot of EVOO.)9. When each veggie is ready, transfer it to the onion/tomato mixture leaving its EVOO behind.
10. Simmer the ratatouille for about 40 minutes until all is very tender. Add a little water or chicken broth if it gets too dry.
11. Taste frequently along the way and add salt and pepper, as needed.Note: Ratatouille can be made a day or two ahead and refrigerated. Serve heated or ambient.
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