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Best Ratatouille recipe?

y
yulinka Aug 16, 2006 05:46 PM

I've been using Julia Child's perfectly good ratatouille recipe, but I want to try something new. How do you make ratatouille? What's your favorite recipe?

  1. m
    Millicent Aug 16, 2006 06:52 PM

    I made ratatouille for a big group (40) last week and, based on reading a couple of different recipes -- including Julia's -- here's what I did:

    Sauteed one sliced yellow onion in a large, enameled cast-iron pot with lid.

    Added 5 cloves of chopped garlic, about 1/2 cup each of chopped basil and parsley, and two cans of peeled, whole tomatoes, minus about a cup of juice, which I reserved just in case. Set at a simmer.

    Cubed 4 globe eggplants, baked on oiled baking sheet with salt and a sprinkle of crushed chile flakes.

    Sauteed 4 chopped red bell peppers in olive oil/s&p, set aside.

    Sauteed (in the same pan as the peppers) about 8 - 10 assorted zucchini/summer squash in olive oil/s&p.

    I had other projects going on, so I'm not sure of the timing, but when the tomatoes were reduced to a good flavor and texture (let's say about juice reduced down about 25%), I added the other vegetables, gave it a good mixing, took it off the heat, covered it and set it at the back of the stove over night. The cast iron held the heat so it all combined gently without getting too mushed together. I did not end up adding any reserved tomato juice.

    Very tasty the next day served at room temp, and then leftovers tossed with arugula for a salad the day after that.

    1. r
      rootlesscosmo Aug 16, 2006 10:18 PM

      Alice Waters's Vegetables book makes the point that ratatouille will be more attractive on the plate if you cook the ingredients separately and stir together shortly before serving. Prep all the ingredients--bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, garlic; saute the onions and garlic and add the tomatoes for just a couple of minutes, sauté the other veg separately in any order you like, season to taste (thyme is good) and combine.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rootlesscosmo
        alexthepink Dec 3, 2007 09:07 AM

        I also like to roast the vegetables separately - I like to do it with no oil so they go really dry and then they soak up all the tomatoey juices when you add them to the mix, mmm-mmm!

      2. s
        s1729543 Aug 17, 2006 12:25 AM

        I learned this way from my chef, who learned it from Bertolli, and i've been unable to improve on it. cut your peppers, eggplant, zucchini, red onions and tomatoes into 1-cm dice (equal quantities of each). confit a whack of garlic in canola oil while you're doing that. Strain off the garlic oil (you can use it for croutons, salad dressing...) and puree the garlic. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over HIGH heat, add a good glug of olive oil, and saute the onions until translucent, but don't colour them. add the peppers, saute until they're starting to soften, then add your zucca. stir constantly, but gently. Once the zucca start to soften, add the eggplant, and cook it for about a minute. turn this mixture into a bowl, then add your tomatoes. Hang this mixture in a chinois (or a fine-mesh colander, if you haven't got one) for an hour or so, reserving the juices. (the residual heat will cook the tomatoes) reduce the juices by 50%, whisk in the garlic puree, just as you would if mounting a butter sauce, and fold the liquid into the vegetables. this improves with a day in the refrigerator. to serve, heat a pan over low heat, add a few drops of olive oil and warm the mixture through. just before serving, toss in some chopped thyme, basil, parsley, chives, etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: s1729543
          p
          pobo Aug 27, 2009 06:12 PM

          Thank you for this! I just made it this evening and am basking in the afterglow of a terrific meal. A very delicious and flavorful stew. I also mounted some butter in the sauce and sprinkled a teaspoon of flour on the veggies to thicken the sauce a little. Sopped it up with crusty baguette bread - yum! Can't wait to try to the roasted veggie version next.

        2. r
          rainey Aug 17, 2006 12:34 AM

          Here's a recipe I've been using for many, many years. I no longer worry much about more than the general proportions of things but the method produces a flavorful and attractive ratatouille.

          Ratatouille Niçoise
          Recipe By: Saveur, Sept/Oct 1998
          Serving Size: 8

          Ingredients:

          3 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 2-inch cubes
          4 medium-sized zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2" pieces
          kosher salt
          1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
          6 medium-sized yellow onions, thinly sliced
          4 medium-sized red, green or yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2" strips
          6 small tomatos, peeled, seeded and quartered
          8 cloves garlic, minced
          20 leaves fresh basil
          1 bunch fresh parsley, stems trimmed off
          8 sprigs fresh thyme
          freshly ground black pepper

          Directions:

          Put eggplant and zucchini in 2 separate strainers and toss each with 1 tablespoon of salt. Allow to drain for 30 minutes. Blot with paper towels to dry.

          Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 15 minutes, then transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to same skillet, increase heat to medium-high, add eggplant, and sauté until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a large heavy pot with a cover and spoon a layer of onions on top. Add 2 tablespoons oil and zucchini to skillet and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to pot and cover with a layer of onions. Add 1 tablespoon oil and peppers to skillet and sauté until edges turn brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to pot and cover with a layer of onions.

          Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to skillet, add tomatoes, garlic and basil, lightly crushing tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to pot, add remaining onions, parsley and thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.

          Simmer, partially covered, over low heat, gently stirring occasionally, for an hour and a half. Adjust seasonings, then cook about 30 minutes more.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rainey
            s
            s1729543 Aug 17, 2006 05:21 AM

            neat--your recepie is exactly the opposite of mine, and yet we both get results we're happy with. I find that the herbs added at the end gives best flavour, and i like a bit of texture from the tomatoes--what do you like about yours? I want to try your method some time...

            1. re: s1729543
              r
              rainey Aug 17, 2006 05:58 AM

              Actually, I just copied the recipe out of my database. In truth, I do add another handful of fresh basil when I serve it and I add a generous amount of Herbes de Provence as well.

              What I like about it is really full flavor from the individual browning of the veggies with some definition left for presentation. The first ratatouille I learned to make had the veggies layered in a cocotte with the firmest at the bottom and the most tender at the top. It simmered for hours and was delicious but "rustic" was a kind word for the visual appeal. But then it's, partly, the rusticity and complexity of honest flavors that are the signal things about ratatouille that I love.

              I've seen dozens of recipes, including the roasted version. Personally, I can't imagine if you use these wonderful veggies together you *wouldn't* get something delicious. Some you might serve to company; some you might not. But I'm thinking this is one of those peasant things that's as individual as the cook and as universal as it well-deserves to be.

              I *will*, all this said, be trying yours 'cause the roasted garlic sounds wonderful. And the comparison will be fun. Who knows, it might be my new favorite way to make it. ;>

          2. p
            piccola Aug 17, 2006 02:32 AM

            My dad makes ratatouille in the oven, roasting all the vegetables in a pan until caramelized and slightly charred. The tomatoes disintegrate a little, but it's still a dry-style ratatouille.

            One of my relatives in Italy makes a very saucy version, practically a tomato stew. She also adds potatoes in there, making it a real entrée-worthy dish.

            2 Replies
            1. re: piccola
              m
              mlgb Dec 3, 2007 10:25 AM

              My favorite way (and easiest) is the same as your dad's. I cut all of the vegs into about 1-2 inch size (not being too anal about it), coat them in olive oil, and roast them . Use whatever combination of eggplant, peppers, onions, summer squashes, garlic is handy. Then I finish them in the stockpot with some added tomato sauce if it's too dry. A splash of vinegar is nice, I don't always use herbs.

              1. re: mlgb
                greygarious Aug 25, 2009 04:50 PM

                For those who enjoy the roast version, I'd recommend taking a look at the Stir-Fried Roasted Eggplant in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I omit the soy, stock and mirin, subbing some diluted Mr. Yoshida's cooking sauce (which contains similar ingredients) and also omit the hot peppers. But the ginger makes this dish extraordinary, IMO, and I need to remember to try adding squash and bell pepper to it, for a ratatouille hybrid.

            2. s
              sibaik Dec 3, 2007 08:43 AM

              I just made the Cooks Illustrated Best Recipe version of ratatouille and I was really happy with it. One thing that I noticed that differs from the other posters' recipes was that this recipe didn't use peppers, just onion, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini. It was very delicious, moist, but not dry, with fresh flavors from the herbs added at the end (thyme, basil and parsley) and the richer, roasted flavors of the zucchini and eggplant roasted in the oven at 500 degrees. Everything I've made from the CI recipe book has turned out great!

              1 Reply
              1. re: sibaik
                k
                KGill Aug 25, 2009 10:36 AM

                I use the Cooks Illustrated recipe, too, because I think that roasting the veggies really brings out the flavour. I add peppers to the eggplant and zucchini, but otherwise follow the recipe quite closely. The leftover ratatouille is outstanding when heaped on focaccia bread, sprinkled with parmesan, then broiled for a minute or two (to be honest, I make ratatouille specifically to enjoy its leftovers for lunch).

              2. d
                drgreg Dec 4, 2007 09:37 AM

                I like the advice I found on this web page http://www.provencebeyond.com/food/ra... They list 3 recipes, but I've only made the easy version and it's great. The best thing is I don't have to cut up all the veges first, as that can be done while the previous ones cook. Takes about an hour of prep+cooking but makes several meals worth. And it's better after a couple of days in the fridge of course.

                1. southernitalian Dec 4, 2007 09:55 AM

                  I don't really think what I make is really ratatouille but I've been making it this way for years: In my large crock pot, I pour three large cans of whole tomoatoes in their juice and break up with my hands. I cut one large eggplant into large chunks and add. Two or three zucchinis, depending on their size, one large yellow onion, rough chopped. 2 crushed cloves of garlic and as many mushrooms as I can stuff in there, chopped if they're too big. i add fresh basil, cover, put on high for about 5 hours and return to find what I guess is really more of a stew or thick soup. I spoon it into bowls and sprinkle with Pecorino and serve with a good crusty loaf of bread. Delicious!

                  1. c
                    Carpe Aug 25, 2009 12:54 PM

                    Thomas Keller's recipe that they used in the movie Ratatouille is really good- but a but work intensive- technically not a ratatouille, he calls it Confit Byaldi, but it is really good.

                    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/13/din...

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Carpe
                      o
                      Old Spice Aug 27, 2009 11:56 PM

                      Yes, it is really good. I made Keller's recipe for the first time just this past weekend and was quite pleased with the dish. Really liked the contrast between the sauteed bottom layer of tomatoes/peppers/onions (essentially a chunky sauce) and the sliced eggplant/tomatoes/squashes on top, which retained some texture.

                      The only thing I'd do differently is cut back on the peppers. I love peppers, sweet and hot, but they tend to dominate ratatouille recipes, even Keller's. I cut back by 1/2 a pepper as it was, but found the flavor still more front-and-center than I wanted.

                      And while it didn't look like what was served to Ego in the movie, it still made for a very attractive dish to set on the table.

                    2. d
                      dmd_kc Aug 25, 2009 01:51 PM

                      I don't use a recipe, but instead follow the guidelines from my "mother" when I was an exchange student in Lyon.

                      I briefly sauté the vegetables separately, then place them in discrete piles in the same rectangular or oval baking dish -- a bunch of eggplant cubes nestled next to the tomatoes, next to the zucchini, next to the peppers, and so on. I usually cook each herb with just one of the vegetables at a time, too: basil with the tomatoes, thyme with the zucchini, etc.

                      Bake at 350 for a while. When everything's well withered and bubbly, I turn it out into a colander set over a skillet and let the juices drain for a good hour or so.

                      Then I reduce those down with a good shot of balsamic vinegar and red wine till it's just short of syrupy. Sometimes I'll add some more fresh herbs at this stage, but it really depends on how many I put in the first batch.

                      Put the vegetables back in their baking dish, mix them together, and add the reduced juices back on top. Mix together and let sit, preferably overnight.

                      My dang tomatoes STILL haven't ripened this year, so I'm champing at the bit to make it this summer. Here's wishing for some hot weather to turn those things red.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: dmd_kc
                        k
                        KristieB Aug 25, 2009 09:34 PM

                        I use the recipe in Paula Wolfert's book Mediterranean Cooking. Though over the years I have tweaked it some. I use less oil to fry the vegetables as eggplant soakes up so much oil then releases it back into the final dish. I vary the green peppers with yellow, red, or orange peppers. And I sometimes use quality canned tomatoes in the winter as I am a tomato snob/freak and want summer tomatoes or nothing. The basic recipe is as follows:

                        1 lb eggplant
                        salt
                        3-5 zucchini, each about 5 inches long
                        2 medium green peppers, or 5 small elongated light-green Italian frying peppers
                        1 large onion
                        4 large red ripe tomatoes
                        6-8 tablespoons fruity olive oil
                        1 bay leaf
                        Freshly ground black pepper
                        Pinch of cayenne pepper
                        1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (I use a small-med clove crushed)
                        3/4 teaspoon thyme leaves, (I've used dried and fresh, it's up to you)
                        2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
                        1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

                        1. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch chunks and place in a colander. Salt them, top with a weight and leave to drain for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini into 1-inch chunks, salt them, and leave them to drain on paper toweling.

                        2, Sed, derib, and cut up the greep peppers. Cut the onion into eighths. Peel, seed, and roughly chop the tomatoes.

                        3 Rinse the eggplant and the zhcchini in cold water;; squeeze gently and pat dry with paper towels. Heat 1.4 cup oil in large skillet and lightly brown the eggplant and zucchini chunks. Transfer to a 4-quart casserole.

                        4. Lightly brown the green peppers in the same oil. Add to the casserole. Add the onion, tomatoes, bay leaf, and the remaining oild to the casserole. Season with salt and pepper and, if desired, cayenne. Simmer, covered, 30 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the garlic and the thyme. Cook 20 minutes more, or until thick and well blended. Serve hot or cold. Sprinkle with the fresh herbs and stir in.

                        I usually eat it the first night with crusty bread and wine. The next night I sometimes take Paula Wolfert's advice and put some in gratin dishes, make a well and crack an egg into the well. I sprinkle with smoked paprika and bake until it is hot and the egg white is set. I eat with toast or crusty bread.

                        1. re: KristieB
                          a
                          anakalia Aug 25, 2009 11:26 PM

                          I generally make ratatouille when I have veggies that are on their last legs - so my ratios of the different veggies differ each time.
                          I don't worry about cooking the veggies separately, either.

                          And, while I know it's not "authentic," I add a bit of red wine to mine as it simmers. It adds great flavor.

                          1. re: anakalia
                            m
                            mlgb Aug 26, 2009 02:26 PM

                            I do find it amusing that people are using recipes for ratatouile.

                      2. n
                        nickblesch May 2, 2010 10:34 PM

                        I see that a couple have made suggestions (however inauthentic) to add a bit of red wine or balsamic while cooking.

                        I think I'd rather keep the ratatouille pure, so to speak, but what would y'all think of using a reduction of balsamic or red wine as a sauce - perhaps just a bit drizzled on the plate along with some good olive oil? I'd like to dress the dish up a bit, and I'm not sure how else I'd do so.

                        1. d
                          darrentran87 May 2, 2011 10:19 AM

                          I used Thomas Keller's ratatoille recipe... it was amazing...

                          http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/...

                          Slicing the veggies instead of dicing them makes a huge difference imo

                          1. c
                            cathyeats May 2, 2011 10:20 AM

                            I like to grill the eggplant and zucchini - it gives the ratatouille a different but interesting flavor. Here is my recipe:

                            Ratatouille with Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini

                            4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
                            2 pounds eggplant, chopped (salt it if it’s not young, super fresh eggplant)
                            3 medium zucchini (or use a mixture of zucchini and yellow squash)
                            1 large onion, chopped
                            4 cloves garlic, minced
                            2 green bell peppers, chopped
                            4-5 large very ripe tomatoes, peeled seeded and chopped
                            1 bay leaf
                            2 teaspoons fresh thyme
                            2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
                            Salt
                            Freshly ground black pepper
                            1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

                            Start a fire in your grill. Combine the eggplant and zucchini with 1 tablespoon of oil. Grill in a vegetable basket, stirring, for about 8 minutes or until the vegetables are about halfway cooked. Remove to a plate and hold.

                            Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot or dutch oven. Saute the onions for 8-10 minutes, then add the garlic and peppers and cook 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme and parsley, along with the grilled vegetables. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are quite soft. Add the fresh basil and serve.

                            You can see a photo here: http://www.whatwouldcathyeat.com/2010...

                            1. Delucacheesemonger May 2, 2011 11:02 AM

                              l make ratatouille's Italian cousin caponata, which besides others adds raisins, pine nuts, honey, vinegar and more. One of best recipes can be found by googling Leslie Land Caponata. Been making it for 25 years. She was alice Waters first sous chef and a genius, at least with caponata.

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