Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a French vegetable/vegetarian stew dish that originated from Nice.'Rata' is a slang for 'chunky stew' and 'touiller' means 'to toss or stir.' 'Ratatouille Nicoise' is the original name of the dish(Thanks Cham for reminding me).Basically it contains zucchini or courgettes, eggplants,bell peppers,onions and garlic.There are several versions of making it ,though basically it is a stew served with bread,couscous or anyother main dish.Different chefs have different approaches to it as well.Julia Child insists on layering approach-separately saute the ingredients in the pan and then layer along with sauce made of tomato,onions,garlic and bell pepper and bake for a few minutes in the oven.

For a long time I had this idea for preparing this dish especially after seeing the 'Ratatouille' Movie-well if a mouse can prepare it,why can't we.? This time I got the chance to prepare it when I was paired with Veronicay of LaRecette du Jour for Taste&Create by Nicole.She is a wonderful chef with many authentic Italian & French dishes and also gives nice explanations to each post.Ratatouille is a wonderful dish which she had prepared from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Beck,Bertholle and Julia Child.The recipe is excellent though I adjusted to save time and as per taste.

Ingredients:

Purple Eggplants: 1
Zucchini: 1
Red Bell Pepper: 1
Onion: 1 big
Garlic: 2 cloves crushed/minced
Tomato: 3-4 big ripe and fleshy

Salt
Pepper
Oregano(optional)
Fresh Parsley

Preparation:
Peel and chop the eggplants into bite sized cubes.Also chop the zucchini-no need to peel the zucchini.Add salt to these cubes and let them sit in a colander for atleast 15minutes or even half an hour till all the bitterness if there is removed from them.This also helps them cook faster and absorb only little oil.Chop the onions finely and crush/mince the garlic.Chop the bell pepper also into small pieces.Its better if the zucchini and eggplant are cut in the same size.Also peel and chop the tomatoes.To peel the tomatoes,dip them for a minute in boiling water and then take them and dip them for a minute in ice cold water.This loosens the skin and brings forth the juicy interior.Chop the peeled tomatoes and keep aside

Heat olive oil in a large pan and add the squeezed eggplant cubes and stirfry them till brown on both sides.Remove and keep aside.Then to the same pan,add the zucchini cubes and stirfry till brown on both sides.Remove and keep aside.You can add more oil as and when needed and also stirfry these in batches.

To the same pan,add more olive oil,and stifry onions,chopped bell pepper till the onions are transparent.Then stir in crushed/minced garlic and season with salt and pepper.I also added a pinch of oregano as well.This is completely optional.Mix and spread these in a single layer and then spread the chopped,peeled tomatoes over these.Cover and cook for a few minutes till the juice comes out.If too much juice is there,then you can remove the cover and boil fast so as to reduce the juice or if too little juice,add little water to obtain your choice of gravy consistency.I used 3 large tomatoes and did not add water as I liked a thick gravy.

Now comes the layering part.In a casserole dish place half of the tomato -onion-bell pepper sauce mixture,top this with eggplant cubes as the second layer.Top the eggplant layer with a zucchini cubes.Top it with the rest of the tomato mix,sprinkle with fresh parsley and bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes at 350F. You can also add parsley in between layers as well,if you like it.
Ladle/Spoon into bowls and serve warm with your choice of main course.

The stew or rather chunky stew was wonderful and I even enjoyed it as such without any main course.Its comforting and filling.Thanks Veronicay,for this wonderful recipe.

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