October 16, 2011
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I love stocking my freezer this time of year with goodies made from the abundant produce available. One of my favorites is ratatouille. It freezes well and there’s nothing like thawing and heating up a batch in the dead of winter to get a hit of late summer goodness! I’ve made ratatouille for this purpose for many years, but I wasn’t ever 100% satisfied with the results. While the flavor was always delicious, the end product was mushier than I like. A few years ago I was talking with friend Kristi Mattson about making ratatouille – she has a big garden and was also making some for the freezer. She shared her method of roasting some of the vegetables before putting them in the pot to cook the ratatouille. This was the solution to getting both outstanding flavor and texture. The ingredients are the same, but this method makes a big difference! In addition to serving this as a side dish to grilled salmon or roast/grilled chicken, we love tossing it with pasta with a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese!
Olive oil for tossing with each vegetable
5 medium bell peppers, mixed colors, cut in 1-inch squares (I used 2 red, one orange and 2 green)
6-7 small-medium zucchini and/or yellow squash cut in 1-inch cubes
7-8 small-medium eggplants, cut in 1-inch cubes
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil, for sauteing
5 medium onions, cut in 1-inch chunks (I like a mix of red and yellow)
6-10 garlic cloves, minced (depending on size)
20-ish plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped (totaling 4-5 cups after chopping)
1/3-1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped (I particularly like Greek oregano in this recipe)
2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme
Fresh basil and/or parsley, chopped, for serving
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. You will roast the bell peppers, zucchini/yellow squash and eggplant. First, toss each vegetable lightly with olive oil and turn into a foil-lined jelly-roll or large roasting pan. Roast for about 12-17 min, stirring half-way through. The vegetables will be done when they are just starting to show a few browned spots. (I found that I needed 2 pans for the eggplant and 1 pan each for the peppers and zucchini with the above quantities.) Turn onto a large platter or oblong glass baking dish. Set aside and cool.
In large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until beginning to brown, about 10 or so min on med-high heat. Add the garlic, oregano and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the roasted peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and the tomatoes and their juices. Stir just to combine.
Bring all to a bubble, then turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Take the lid off the pan, turn up heat slightly and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 30-45 minutes, until the liquid reduces. During this time, check every 10 minutes to make sure the bottom layer is not burning. Stir a little, but don’t over-stir in order to preserve the shape of each vegetable. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Right before serving, stir in the basil and parsley. If freezing, omit the basil and parsley step and put in containers and place in the freezer.
When using later after thawing, stir in a gremolata of the following, right before serving.
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil and/or parsley, 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest, 1-2 finely minced cloves of garlic. Adjust amounts to how much ratatouille you have. This can be used even when not freezing – it brightens the flavor but is especially fabulous when using frozen/thawed ratatouille.
COOK’S NOTES: This method is a 3-4 hour project, but is definitely worth the time. The quantities given made a little under 4 quarts finished product. This is a recipe where you can definitely adjust the quantities to your taste or need for amounts.