Really delicious Ratatouille seems like such a good idea. I actually fell in love with the idea of Ratatouille while I was watching the Disney cartoon/movie by the same name. Fresh vegetables, cooked simply, in just the right combination with fresh herbs… sounds delicious, no?
I tried for years to make really delicious Ratatouille, that unique combination of fresh eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and herbs, all of which I love, combined into a dish that any french mother could make in a moment (at least according to Disney), I mean in the movie a Rat made it! Albeit a french Rat, I have a french Great Grandfather and a son that’s been to France twice, doesn’t that count for something?
So I refused to buy eggplant. Although those round sensuous purple orbs called to me from the farmers market stand, I would see other people buying them and be jealous, thinking they had the secret. I did not. I love zucchini. I love onions. I love bell peppers and garlic and basil and tomatoes and yes, I love the idea of eggplant (eggplant is featured in the photo at the top of my blog and in this photo, shot the same day. It was taken about 4 years ago, I know that because my sweet dog Zoe is in the background and she has since passed away).
I’ve been TRYING to make Ratatouille for literally YEARS.
I have made successful Eggplant Parmesan, it was wonderful, crispy and golden and cheesy, with homemade marinara. But I wanted it simpler, something where you could really taste the eggplant. So I watched Bobby Flay grill it, so I grilled it. And I watched Alton Brown salt it and let it drain to take out the bitterness. I did that and then tried to Ratatouille it. EH,… not so much! It was never REALLY good and I was going for excellent.
I consider myself a pretty darn good cook, but I absolutely could not get my mind and taste buds around the Ratatouille idea.
Last Saturday morning, I gave in to the purple temptation and bought some at the farmers market, Fairy Eggplant. Little tiny purple and white fingerling sized tender beautiful eggplant, and some zucchini and peppers and purple onions and a lot of other things including a purple cauliflower and purple blue potatoes. I was in LOVE with the color purple again!
Sometime late Saturday afternoon, I suddenly felt…focused, like I did the day I finally made excellent sweet potato biscuits and put pepper jelly on them with shaved country ham.
It was time.
I walked in the kitchen, and took out a large purple onion and chopped it, along with 3 cloves of garlic and minced that. I put about two tablespoons of olive oil in my skillet and sauteed the onion until translucent and put the garlic in and sauteed that for a few minutes more. I took it off the heat and turned up the flame and took a red bell pepper and blackened the skin right over the flame, wrapped it in wax paper to steam off the skin, rubbed it down and chopped it up and put that in the skillet. I took a LARGE (1 pound) Cherokee Purple tomato (its really red, that’s just the name, a heirloom variety and my personal favorite) peeled it and chopped it and put that in the skillet with the rest of the veggies, back on the heat with some salt to taste and 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes. Cooked the whole shebang on medium heat for 10 minutes, and stuck an Immersion blender in and whirled it up until it was a chunky saucy gravy.
Tasted it and the heavens opened up and the world stood still, you could have put it on a flip flop and it would have been fabulous.
Next, I sliced the zucchini and the little Fairy Eggplants long ways, oiled them up with olive oil and salt and pepper and grilled them until they were crisp tender with lovely grill marks etched on their sides.
Next I laid them out on the cobalt platter and dolloped the roasted red pepper tomato sauce on them and sprinkled torn fresh basil over the top.
I would have taken a picture of it but we ate it too fast. It was amazing, excellent texture and taste, not mushy, and bright tasting because I didn’t overcook vegetables. And REALLY good for you.
I call it “Deconstructed Damn Good Ratatouille.”
I am no longer unrequited!