This is a rustic recipe. By rustic I mean uncomplicated. Its deliciousness is derived from the deliciousness of the component ingredients. I see Joël Robuchon and Thomas Keller telling me to cook every bit separately, to layer each item carefully, to fuss and rearrange. I like a poetic, modern meal as much as the next foodie jerk, but unfortunately for the proponents of needlessly complicating delicious-tasting foods, these gentleman came into my life long after a certain woman named Rita who had her own opinions on the matter.
Ratatouille was introduced to me at Thanksgiving, where it was a staple for some reason I don’t remember. Imagine a table laid out with meats and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and pie; and then imagine a bunch of kids lined up in front of a bowl of slimy vegetables and you will begin to see what my mother wrought in our hearts and minds concerning squash. I still make mom’s version at least once a month. It’s delicious, full of vegetables, has almost no fat or oil, takes no effort to prepare, and even the masters agree: ratatouille tastes better the next day. (It’s also vegan, glutin-free, everything free, but whatever.)
So with all due respect to Ms. Julia Child, who would slap me for putting corn in this dish (and for cursing as much as I do), I present my love letter to summertime vegetables: ratatouille with the vegetables I have on hand, sweet corn, and fresh peas because they’re delicious –
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 spring onions
- 2 fresh garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1-2 medium tomatoes
- 3 cups zucchini
- 2 cups yellow squash
- 1-2 cups eggplant (I used white eggplant)
- 1 ear fresh corn
- 1/2-1 cup fresh peas
- 1 jalapeno (optional I guess)
- 1 cup or less, water
- 2 bay leaves
- salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- shaved parmesan
- fresh basil, chopped
1. Wash and prep all vegetables. Cut the root ends from your onions and chop into medium dice, including about 2″ of green stem if possible. Peel and coarsely chop the garlic. Medium dice the zucchini, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes. Remove the peas from the pod and set aside. Pull the silk off of the corn and remove the kernels using a sharp knife to slice downwards and away from your body. Set aside the kernels and use the knife blade to scrape the cob into the same bowl. Reserve the cob. Dice the jalapeno last, if using. I don’t de-seed the peppers, but some people find them intolerably hot, so suit yourself.
2. Make the base. Heat the oil to medium in a large pot. Add the tomato paste and cut 2-3 minutes or until it begins to brown, stirring regularly. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until they begin to carmelize, stirring frequently. Add the fresh tomatoes, corn cobs, bay leaves, and water, stirring 5-10 minutes to combine and simmer.
3. Cook the squash. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low and add your zucchini, squash, and eggplant. Cook covered for 30 minutes. Vegetables will continue to soften and flavors to combine if this dish is cooked longer. It also improves when cooled and refrigerated if you prefer firmer vegetables. Ten minutes before the end of your cooking time, add the fresh peas, corn, and jalapenos. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Sample and serve. I eat this dish as a rather soupy entrée so I adjust my seasoning and liquid at the end accordingly. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and shaved parmesan. Enjoy with warm bread. A lot of people think this dish tastes best with a glass of wine, but let’s be honest: it goes best with cold milk.