Ratatouille

Last week my farm
share
had eggplant, basil, and garlic, and there were
zucchini and summer squash from previous weeks, so I made
ratatouille.

This is one of the dishes I learned to cook when I was first
cooking on my own out of Craig Claiborne’s New
York Times Cookbook
in the early ’70’s. I made a point of
having some when I was in Nice once, and was glad that it tasted
something like what I make.

I usually eat it hot, but it was a steamy night on Tuesday, so
I served it to the band cold. Several people asked what the
ingredients were, which surprised me because there wasn’t
anything unusual for ratatouille, but they might not have ever
cooked ratatouille.

It varies based on what you have on hand, of course, but for
this batch the ingredients were:

  • 2 cans of tomatoes. One was plum tomatoes, and the other
    was diced tomatoes.
  • 2 medium eggplant. They were pretty young, so I didn’t
    bother peeling them.
  • 3 small-medium yellow summer squash.
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves uncured garlic. This was actually unusual, since
    what you buy in stores is always cured. Apparently the curing
    means exposing it to heat, either by a hair-dryer like machine
    or just by leaving it out in the sun in the fields, if you’re
    sure it the sun will shine and it won’t rain. (I learned that
    from Harvesting
    and
    Storing
    Onion and Garlic
    at the Colorado State University site.) In any case, it
    was a fairly mild-flavored garlic.
  • Lots of Basil
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Salt and pepper
  • I don’t remember what I did about other flavors; I sometimes
    add dried Herbes de Provence or ground mild chile
    peppers, but as I remember it I might have decided the basil was
    enough. I also might have brought in some lavender from the garden.

Anyway, you put the tomatoes in the pot and start heating them
and add other stuff as you get it chopped up. Sautéeing in olive oil
before adding to the pot
is optional, but I always do it for the onions and garlic and
usually for the eggplant and squash.

Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer and forget about it
for a few hours. It’s one of those dishes that’s better the
second day, or even the second week.


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