I always find myself this time of year appreciating Shakespeare’s phrasing of a “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” There is indeed something magical about the midpoint of summer that can be particularly appreciated as night falls and the symphony of cicadas is illuminated by fireflies sparkling through the trees. Nature is truly at its peak.
This midsummer magic is also seen during the day at the farmers market when tables literally overflow with summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant, which is a bonanza for shoppers but only if you know what to do with it all when you get home.
Ratatouille originates from southern France and roughly translates from a verb meaning, “to stir up,” which is what this dish entails. Although very easy to make, Ratatouille accommodates many vegetables and therefore requires some prep, although only a rough chop of vegetables into cubes. A traditional Ratatouille recipe states that each vegetable is sautéed in its own pan, which is too fussy for me on most days. I find that this One-Pot Ratatouille is simply delicious when the vegetables simmer together.
That bottle of herbs de Provence you have in your pantry works very well in Ratatouille, as do fresh herbs, of course. The vegetables simmer until they soften and gently meld together.
Ratatouille can handle all of your summer vegetables and gladly accepts any duty you impose…whether it is a side dish for grilled meats or seafood, a main dish served over pasta, rice or couscous, or mixed with a drained can of white beans. I often enjoy it served as a salad atop mixed greens. Regardless, it is always served with an extra glug of great olive oil. Just like almost all of our dishes this summer, Ratatouille holds up to the heat and tastes best at room temperature but is just as satisfying warm as it is cold.
Versatile and easy, One-Pot Ratatouille manages to make something special out of simple ingredients. It is the true magic of the season.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1½ lbs. zucchini and/or summer squash, peeled with ends removed
- 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb.), peeled, seeds and core removed
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.), peeled with ends removed
- 1 lb. green and/or red peppers, cored
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 handful basil (1 cup leaves), roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste.
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2-3 thyme sprigs OR 1½ teaspoons herbs de Provence (dried herb blend available in the spice aisle)
- Prep all of the vegetables in advance by cutting into ½" cubes.
- Heat the oil in a large casserole pot or fry pan over medium heat.
- Add onion. Once onion begins to soften, add the peppers.
- Lower heat to medium low and cover (you should hear a slow sizzling)
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes
- Add the eggplant, stir to coat with oil. (add more oil if pan drys out)
- Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they gently simmer. (You do not want to vegetables to sizzle in a dry pan. The pan should always have oil and, soon, juices from the vegetables.)
- Once the eggplant begins to soften, add the squash and/or zucchini
- Stir and cook until squash begins to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and add salt, pepper, thyme sprigs or herbs de provence
- Drizzle with another glug of olive oil and stir to combine. Let simmer gently uncovered until vegetables are tender and sauce starts to thicken. About 20-25 minutes.
- Set a large ceramic or other heatproof bowl next to the stove top and remove the vegetables to the bowl using a slotted spoon.* Remove and discard thyme sprigs, if using.
- Leave all of the juices in the pan and increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5- 7 minutes until liquid reduces by half and begins to thicken.
- Return vegetables to the pan, add basil, and stir to combine. Let sit until almost room temperature to allow flavors to meld, then serve.
- If not serving immediately, refrigerate and when serving, allow time for ratatouille to warm almost to room temperature, about 35-40 minutes should do it.
*Top with crumbled feta, goat or fresh cubed mozzarella atop of greens for a salad.
*Traditionally, ratatouille is often served rolled up inside plain crêpes and topped with parmesan or gruyere cheese then heated until bubbly under a broiler.
*Top with a fried or poached egg and a tossed salad on the side for brunch.
*Serve as a sauce atop pasta, rice or couscous