Thursday, August 7, 2014


Pronounced: Rat' uh TOO ee

Nothing about rats, or movies, or mispronounced French.

This is about Ratatouille, a Mediterranean vegetable stew. And how to make it.

Now is the time of year to indulge in one of the greatest stir frys to come down the pike. It's cheap (garden produce at roadside stands, farmer's market, friends with surplus) and it makes a lot. Not quick, but not all day, either.

Here we go:

1 medium-to-large eggplant *(see below for substitutions)
1 or 2 small-to-medium zucchinis
1 or 2 small-to-medium summer squash
Sweet peppers to taste (I use the bright-colored because green don't agree with me)
Onion or Shallots
Garlic (if you like it)
Can of stewed tomatoes (or fresh ones if you have them)
Chicken broth, about 3/4 cup
Spices (I like Italian blend or Herbes de Provence)
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 ribs celery, strings removed

Here's what I start with

Finely chop onion/shallot and garlic. Also chop the peppers.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over Medium heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add onion/shallot, garlic, and peppers. Stir to distribute and let them sauté.

While the sauté is working, cut the eggplant into bigger dice--about 1/2-inch cubes:


Same with the squash--if you have smaller ones, slice them into coins:

Once the peppers, et al. are soft enough, empty the skillet and store the sauté in a big bowl. Then add another Tbsp. or two of olive oil to the skillet, let it heat through, and add the eggplant. Stir and sauté. When the cubes are browned, remove them from the skillet and add to the pepper bowl.

Saute the squash, adding a little more oil, if needed. The squash may take a little longer to cook, so check them often, stirring to give them a chance to cook consistently. Add 1/2 cup of the broth to keep them steaming and prevent sticking.

When you're satisfied that the squash are nearly cooked through, add back the eggplant and pepper mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add the stewed tomatoes, plus a little more broth (I used the remainder of the broth to rinse out the tomato can). If you're using spices, now's the time to put them in. Salt and pepper to taste, either now or when you serve the dish.

Turn the heat to Medium Low, cover the skillet, and let the ratatouille cook for about 5 minutes. Check to see if all veggies are cooked by sticking a few with a paring knife.

Meanwhile, finely chop the celery. When the 5 minutes have elapsed and you're happy with the state of the stew, add the celery on top--just sprinkle it on--put the lid back on. Turn off the heat. (The celery doesn't need to cook much--it's to give the dish a little crunch.)

Make rice, if you plan to serve the stew over the rice. When the rice is done--or 15 minutes later if you're eschewing rice--serve ratatouille.


The above recipe is an adaptation of one by Jean Nidetch, in what I think was the first Weight Watchers cookbook.
One of her suggestions was to add protein to your meal with cottage cheese or folding the (drained) ratatouille into an omelet.
I've added olive oil and other items not in the original recipe. If you want a totally fat-free and low-sodium dish, make sure you get that type of chicken broth and skip the oil. Saute the veggies in broth. (I know, it's not the same, but you don't overload on fats that way.)

Substitution: If you're not an eggplant fan, try potatoes--dice a couple of potatoes and boil them 10 minutes, with or without peel, and add those to the mix. They won't need to cook long if you've cooked them ahead of time; just brown a little.
My recipe serves 4-8 people, depending on their appetites. And don't be surprised if you find yourself eating ratatouille cold out of the fridge just before bedtime. If you like the veggies in ratatouille, you'll find it addictive.
This dish is also naturally gluten-free; no substitutions needed. You can modify it further any way you please--if you have a few broccoli crowns leftover, or a couple of mushrooms languishing in the crisper (not a good place to keep them), chop and add them to ratatouille.
Hope you enjoy it!

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