|2 medium onions skinned -- halved and sliced
|2 cloves garlic, minced
|2 medium bell peppers, halved, seeded -- sliced
|3/4 pound zucchini topped and tailed -- sliced on bias
|2 medium eggplants, topped, halved lengthways -- sliced
|2 tablespoons Olive oil
|1 medium quantity tomato/chipotle sauce.
|1 bunch Fresh herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary)
Preparation / Directions:
There are two essential things for good ratatouille: firstly, use the freshest, best quality produce you can get. Using tired vegetables past their peak or (even worse) tinned or frozen will give you vegetable stew; secondly, *cook each of the constituent parts separately* only combining them for a brief simmer immediately before serving. It takes slightly longer this way but the effort is well worth it.
The thickness of the slicing and the cooking time will vary according to your taste. It can range from thin slicing and cooking slowly till soft to thick slicing and brief stir-frying on a fierce heat. Experiment but go for the middle range (c 1/4 inch slices and cooking until al dente) first and see how you like that.
Take eggplant slices and layer in a colander cut sides up, sprinkle with salt. Add extra layers as necessary. Don't worry too much about the salt you use as you will wash most of it off later. Leave for c 30 minutes, rinse off salt and juices that have come out of the eggplant. Shake off excess water and leave to dry for c. 30 minutes. This process softens the eggplant and reduces any potential bitterness. I'm told that fresh picked eggplants do not need this but I don't grow them so I've never been able to test this out.
Heat 4-6 tablespoons olive oil in frying pan. Fry onions and garlic gently until golden and soft, remove from pan with slotted spoon and place in large bowl. Check oil level and add more if necessary and bring back to heat. Fry peppers rather more vigorously stirring often until al dente, remove peppers with slotted spoon to same bowl as onions, pour back any oil from bowl into frying pan, add oil as necessary to pan and return to heat, fry courgette slices until browned both sides, remove to bowl as before. Check oil (eggplants absorb a lot of oil while frying and adding oil while they are frying can make them soggy) and fry eggplants until browned and soft. Remove to bowl when done.
Bring tomato sauce back to boil and add fried vegetables to it and stir in. Add chopped fresh herbs (basil most of all, a little thyme and rosemary) simmer for 5 minutes or so until heated through. Check for seasoning and add a little salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste, a little lemon juice will lift the flavor.
Serve either as a main course with plain boiled rice, or a starter with crusty French bread. Also excellent as an accompaniment to char-grilled meats such as lamb or pork (or even tuna steaks). For the last two you can cook in advance and serve it lukewarm rather than hot so it's great for barbecues. Wine: a Bandol (or other Mourvedre/Mataro) wine or a good fruity dry