(KLTV/KTRE) - Ratatouille is a French vegetable stew, which traditionally features eggplant, green bell pepper, onion, tomatoes, and zucchini, along with herbs. In my recipe, I've added a Southern twist by including green tomatoes and yellow crookneck squash. The pickled green tomatoes add a hint of zing that no one else's ratatouille has; it really wakes up the flavor! Mama Steph developed this recipe for Southern-style ratatouille to take advantage of not only fresh tomatoes, but also of fresh squash, onions, and more!
I also used red bell pepper instead of green to heighten the sweetness a bit. Sometimes ratatouille can meld into a single flavor, but this one manages to hit several fabulous flavor notes that I think you'll appreciate as much as I do.
1 small eggplant, peeled and and cubed into small dice
Milk, enough to cover cubed eggplant
1 large or two smaller yellow squash, peeled (for larger ones) and chopped
1 medium sweet white onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small green tomato, peeled, diced small
Red wine vinegar
2 large cloves of garlic, minced, or two teaspoons jarred minced garlic
Salt and pepper
3 medium tomatoes, cut in half
Sliced mushrooms (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 stems thyme
1 bay leaf
3 stems parsley leaves
1. Make the pickled green tomatoes: place the diced green tomato in a bowl, and cover with the vinegar. Soak in vinegar for the entire time you're cooking, a minimum of 30 minutes.
2. Prep the eggplant: place the diced eggplant into a medium mixing bowl, and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Cover eggplant with milk, and allow to soak at least 30 minutes. This step is crucial, as the eggplant pieces are like sponges and need to absorb this liquid in order to be creamy, delicious, and less likely to scorch.
3. In your largest skillet or a Dutch oven, pour in 1/4 cup olive oil, and heat over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden. If they seem to be getting too dark, lower heat a bit and continue stirring.
4. Add garlic to the onions, and saute for two more minutes.
5. Drop in the eggplant, bell pepper, yellow squash, and mushrooms. Stir in, allowing to cook for ten minutes while you prepare tomatoes. Add another tablespoon oil if pan is too dry.
6. Tomatoes will become a flavorful pulp in this recipe (or skip this step and just peel and chop them.) Cut tomatoes in half, and use a box grater to scrape them into a bowl. Discard the skins. The three tomatoes will make a beautiful, flavorful pink pulp that will flavor every vegetable in the ratatouille.
7. Stir in the tomato pulp, and then add herbs. Tie stems together with kitchen string to make an easy-to-remove bouquet garni, or simply drop the herbs in and be careful to remove the stems before serving.
8. Simmer the stew for 15 to 20 minutes over low heat. During last five minutes before serving, drain the pickled green tomatoes, then add them to the pan. Stir in, allowing to warm.
Top with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Serve this fantastic stew alongside grilled fish, chicken or shrimp, a juicy burger or steak (perfect for dad's Father's Day dinner!), or just about anything you can think of.
Ratatouille also makes a great cold appetizer, served with warm baguette toasts as a topping. It can be used to make fantastic tacos, as well, paired with fish or shrimp, perhaps. The ideas are practically endless, aren't they?