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Ratatouille. It’s not just a Disney movie.

August 21, 2011

Last night we had dinner with my brother-in-law and his girlfriend, both of whom commented that I hadn’t written anything here recently. I have no defense except to say that I’ve been enjoying the lazy hazy days of summer.  The dog days.  That isn’t to say there hasn’t been anything happening in my kitchen, there has been, I just didn’t photograph most of it.

The beauty of late summer is all of the fresh fruit and vegetables.  I’m envious of those of you with back yard gardens, able to just walk outside and gather the vegetables for the evening meal.  I search out the local farmers markets, looking for the best zucchini, squash, tomatoes, corn and green beans.  I’m blanching beans and corn and freezing them for the winter months and I have a stockpile of blueberries frozen as well.

Last week I went to the local farmers market knowing I wanted to make ratatouille for dinner.  It’s my favorite way to use the bounty of summer vegetables and, it’s versatile too.  Serve it over a hearty pasta, top grilled chicken or fish with it, or serve it as a simple side dish.

I’ve made ratatouille using this recipe for at least four years and each year I forget just how much it makes.  I know this last batch fed about 10 people when served over rigatoni, so feel free to halve the recipe.  Cooking each vegetable separately takes a little extra time but the payoff comes when none of the vegetables are overcooked and mushy.  Yes, ratatouille usually has eggplant as one of the primary vegetables,but I’m not a big fan so I don’t use it.  I’ve increased the zucchini and added yellow squash to make up the difference.

Ratatouille

4 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice (about one cup)
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and ground pepper
2 small sweet bell peppers (red, green or yellow), seeded and cut into 3/4 inch dice
2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 medium yellow squash, quartered and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped, or 2 cans (28 oz each)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently until it’s soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in the same skillet then add the sweet bell peppers, season with salt and cook, stirring frequently, until they are just starting to soften. Transfer to the bowl with the onions.

Heat the last tbsp of olive oil in the skillet and add the zucchini and squash. Season with salt and pepper and cook until crisp tender then transfer to the bowl with the onions and bell peppers.

Add the tomatoes, basil and garlic to the skillet and cook until hot, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add the vegetables from the bowl, along with any juices that have accumulated and heat until warmed through.

Serve over pasta, chicken or fish, or as a side dish to any meal. Any leftovers can be saved, covered, in the refrigerator for several days. Reheat or serve at room temperature.

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