Ah, summer. Oh, oh: ratatouille!
ra· ta· touille
[rat-uh–too-ee, –twee; Fr.ra-ta–too-yuh]
I loved the movie (Ratatouille).
Also “The Big Night”
And “Babette’s Feast”
Try them. Food movies. Sigh.
I love the real deal better. If you become a devoted cook, your world will revolve around the seasons. Stews in winter. Apple pie in the fall. Berries in the spring and early summer. And… High summer: Tons of vegetables at their peak.
Each August, when it’s time for ratatouille, I don’t make too much of it. I mean, I don’t want it to become pat or to lose its special warm holiday-type brilliance, so I make it only once or twice, relishing each and every mouthful.
above: my gorgeous yellow zucchini, Japanese eggplant, and fresh basil from the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market a few years ago
In other words, it’s something to savor. I made it last week and served it with grilled lamb chops– a completely decadent summer treat for my friend Sue, who had come for just 24 hours.
an old, but favorite photo of Sue with Tucker as puppy
The leftovers are breath taking cold right out of the fridge just as they are or stirred into a quick pot of fresh pasta or spooned into an omelet or frittata. The sky’s the limit. I’ll admit I even snuck a few small containers of ratatouille into the freezer for cold winter nights. TIP: If you don’t like one of the usual vegetables in ratatouille, leave it out and make the dish your way. It will still be scrumptious.
A few weeks before Sue arrived, I had stirred up a potful on the stove top (see directions) and we ate it topped with a piece of salmon I had wrapped in foil and roasted in the oven. While a big piece of salmon like this might appear to be a lot–particularly for only two people–it’s not. Cooked, it keeps a 3-4 days in the fridge and you can eat it cold, stir it into scrambled eggs, make a salad, or whip up a spread for crackers. Perhaps all of those? There’s nothing to stop you. Here are two ideas:
More Time Salmon Spread above
More Time Salmon Salad below
Cook once; eat ten times! I like it. And since the vegetables are equally versatile and long-lived, why not? Aren’t you always attempting to get more fish and vegetables into your diet? Maybe you’ll invite friends for a Labor Day cookout. Here it is:
SALMON ON RATATOUILLE
My recipe is for oven-cooked side of salmon, but of course you can grill your salmon if you like–either fillets, a side, or a whole fish. Dish is luscious hot or warm, but is perfectly delicious at room temperature or cold for a picnic lunch.
- 6-8 cups prepared warm ratatouille (printable recipe below), reserved
- Side of salmon — about 2 1/2 pounds
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 3 lemons– one sliced for cooking salmon/two cut into wedges for garnish
- 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
- Fresh parsley and chives, minced–for garnish
*Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and place oven rack in center of oven. Cut a piece of foil large enough to hold and wrap the salmon and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Position the salmon at the center of the foil and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Lay the lemon sliced evenly down the center and add the rosemary on top of them. Fold and seal the foil over the salmon, leaving some space between the fish and the foil.
*Slide salmon into the oven and roast about 15 minutes or until fish is firm, but still tender and juicy. Let rest 2 minutes. Meanwhile, spoon about a cup and half of warm ratatouille into shallow serving bowls or plates. Carve salmon into pieces and gently slide a piece of fish on top of each serving of ratatouille. Garnish with lemon wedges and minced parsley and chives.
Alyce’s Ratatouille with Green and Red Bell Peppers 8 servings
Give yourself 1.5 – 2 hours. While this cooks quickly, the chopping takes time. While my directions include roasting the eggplant in the oven, you can sauté it on the stove top in the interest of time or heat, if needed. Peel the eggplant before chopping if you’re using the typical (Italian) larger variety.
- 1/4 cup olive oil (divided)
3-4 Japanese eggplant (skinny long ones) or 2 medium eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3 zucchini and 3 yellow squash, cut into 1″ cubes
1 each: red bell pepper and green bell pepper (or yellow), cut into strips
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup each: chopped Italian (or curly) parsley and chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (or 1T dried dill)
1 tablespoon dried oregano, optional
- 28 oz can Italian tomatoes, drained (reserve juice) or 1.5-2# fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped*
6 oz can tomato paste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional (or to taste; be careful)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place chopped eggplant on a baking tray, sprinkle lightly with salt and let sit while the oven preheats. When the oven is hot, blot the eggplant lightly on both sides with paper towels and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Cover the tray with foil tightly, place in center of oven, and bake about 40 minutes or until the eggplant is tender. Remove from oven, take off foil, and set aside.
- Meantime, in a large, deep skillet (or heavy soup pot), cook in the remaining oil the onions, peppers, and zucchini until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, herbs, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Season with about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of black pepper. Stir well, heat through and taste. Add crushed red pepper and taste again. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Let simmer 15 -20 minutes over low heat. Add eggplant and warm through. Add some of the reserved tomato juice if the mixture becomes too thick and is sticking or if you’d like a looser consistency.
- Serve as is (hot, warm or cold), with Parmesan, over pasta, beneath fish or chicken, or in an omelet. A big bowl of this and a hunk of bread folks can tear and dip into it is perfect August food.
- Store tightly covered in frig 2-3 days or freeze for 3-6 months, well-wrapped.
*To peel fresh tomatoes, cut an X in the bottom and top. Plunge into boiling water for a minute or two. Pull out, let cool briefly (til you can handle them without being burned) and peel off skins using a small sharp knife or your fingers. Chop coarsely before adding to ratatouille.
above: easily found, inexpensive French Côte du Rhône red
WINE: As a dedicated, forever Oregon Pinot girl, I’m partial to Pinot Noir with salmon, but I also adhere to what I tell my students: “Pair the prep, not the protein.” So I’ll go with an inexpensive red Côte du Rhône, which comes from the same general area where ratatouille was born. “Things that grow together go together” is a favorite wine mantra and it’s true here. Buy an extra bottle while you’re at it as Côte du Rhône is a versatile and easy-drinking wine you’ll want to keep on hand. For summer serving, yes, do let the bottle chill for no more than an hour in the fridge.
DESSERT: Sliced ripe and juicy peaches on vanilla ice cream drizzled with Armagnac or cognac.
truth in blogging: a paragraph of this post was lifted from an earlier More Time post about ratatouille.
above: seen last Sunday morning at a Colorado Springs intersection
below: why cooks often don’t need to lift weights (not really)
Ratatouille on, friends, as you enjoy the tail end of August and the Labor Day holiday. I’m grateful you’re reading the blog during these dog days and always. Thanks!