What's for Dinner: Julia Child's Ratatouille

Julia Child's Ratatouille

Julia Child would have turned 100 years old next week, so in celebration, we offer one of her most popular recipes. Easy enough for the beginning cook, it's perfect for the fresh summer produce that's rolling into local farmers markets and grocery stores. The vegetables meld together with wonderful flavors (it's so good, Pixar built an entire movie around the dish) and because it's made on the stove top, you won't steam up the kitchen with a hot oven.

Typically served as a side dish, ratatouille makes a lovely vegetarian entree and also is incredibly tasty tucked into an omelet or a crepe. However you enjoy it, don't forget the French baguette and a nice glass of white wine.

  • 1 pound eggplant
  • 1 pound zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound (about 1 1/2 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
  • 2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, if necessary
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1 pound firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled and seeded (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.

One layer at a time, saute the eggplant and then the zucchini in the hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.

Slice the tomato into 3/8-inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated.

Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.

Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.

Serves 6 to 8.

-- "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child (Knopf)


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