Summer abundance is beginning. Why not take advantage?
Garlicy, tender, sweet, and filling. This stew is the Italians’ way of using summer abundance to make a delicious vegetable stew. Ratatouille is an old Italian recipe for whatever is coming in at the moment, with a few staples to anchor the dish. (Like eggplant and squash).
There’s lots of room for your imagination! Riff on this if what you have on hand is a little different from what’s listed below in the recipe. If you don’t like one of the ingredients listed below, leave it out. You have total permission to tinker!
True story. My father-in-law is the pickiest eater I know. He swears that he hates garlic, and he doesn’t like it when food is all mixed together. You would think that he’d hate ratatouille. But once we got him to give it a taste, he was all in. He even asked for seconds!
Back to the stew, though. One element that I always include is eggplant (see the beauties pictured below, from Broadfork Farm) and always squash. If I don’t have zucchini, I use yellow squash. If I’m feeling like it, I mix the two. And onions. Lots of onions and garlic! Best of all, you’ll find virtually every ingredient on this list on the Fall Line Farms and Local Roots page this week—just enter each one into the search bar to find your options.
Having company? Ratatouille can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring it to room temperature or reheat it before serving.
I’ve also had success with freezing ratatouille if I stop cooking it before it’s all the way done (while the vegetables are still firm). Imagine pulling a pint out of the freezer in February and tasting all that summer goodness while snow is on the ground!
Fresh or from the freezer, I usually serve ratatouille as is with curls of parmesan cheese on top and crusty bread on the side. I also serve it as a side dish to tasty, tender, sustainably raised meats like the ones on our pages.
In the winter, when I pull it out of the freezer, I heat it up and serve it over brown rice. This Italian vegetable stew is versatile, absolutely delicious, and a great way to make use of the variety of vegetables available right now on our pages! Scroll down for the recipe. (We’ll also post it on our Center for Rural Culture blog this week—watch our Instagram and Facebook pages for the link.)
Katie Hoffman is the Marketing and Promotions Director for Fall Line Farms and Local Roots.
Recipe from Katie Hoffman
(Adapted from a recipe found in Gourmet magazine, 2003)
3 or 4 large tomatoes
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
20 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lbs eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large onions, quartered and sliced
3 assorted bell peppers any color, cut into bite-sized pieces
cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium squash (yellow crookneck or zucchini) cut into 3/4" chunks
1 teaspoon black pepper
Blanch and peel tomatoes. (You can cut off the stem end of each tomato or core out the stem and put them in boiling water for one minute. Transfer them immediately to a bowl or sink filled with ice water and let them sit for a minute to cool. The peels will slip off easily.)
Coarsely chop the tomatoes and transfer them to a 5-quart heavy pot with the garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, and stir them occasionally until the tomatoes begin to break down and the sauce is slightly thickened. This takes about 30 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, toss the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large colander and let it stand in sink 30 minutes.
As the eggplant drains, cook the onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (about 10 to 12 minutes). Transfer the onions to a large bowl, adding 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and cooking the bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon of salt over moderate heat. Stir them occasionally, until softened (about 10 minutes).
Transfer the peppers into the same bowl as the onions. Add 3 tablespoons of oil to the skillet and cook the zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon of salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is just tender (6 to 8 minutes). Transfer the zucchini into the bowl with the other vegetables.
Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. Add the remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to the skillet and cook the eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (10 to12 minutes).
Add the vegetables, the remaining teaspoon of salt, and the black pepper to the tomato sauce and simmer the stew, covered, until the vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Stir it occasionally as it cooks. Cool it uncovered, and it serve warm or at room temperature.
When the stew is ready to serve, garnish it with Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings and fresh basil.
8 to 10 side-dish servings/4 main-dish servings.