It happens the same time every year. Everything in our garden ripens all at once, and I'm scrambling to find ways to use our harvest before Great White Hunter cans it all. While canned garden goods are nice, I think fresh is best.
A little over 10 years ago, way before Disney's movie that managed to make rats seem cute and talented, I started making ratatouille. The way this dish was prepared in the movie, more like a confit, layered in a high sculptural form, was the idea of celebrity chef Thomas Keller (the owner of the famed French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley). Julia Child insisted on making ratatouille in a similar fashion: by cooking the eggplant and zucchini separate, making a sauce with the tomatoes, peppers and herbs, then layering in a casserole dish and baking in the oven.
My version is much simpler, and much more rustic looking, as everything is cooked together. Inspired by a Provence recipe, I cook my eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes and herbs all in one pot. This is very easy to make, and absolutely delicious. My child devours it - "without the basil please mommy" - but still.
3 tbsp. EVOO
2 cups chopped onion
2 1-lb eggplants, unpeeled, and cut into chunks
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini, unpeeled and cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 yellow or green bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 3/4 lbs rip tomatoes, seeded and coarsly chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Heat olive oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add eggplant and garlic, saute 5 minutes. Add zucchini and peppers, saute 5 more minutes. Mix in tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf (you can also add a dash of herbs de Provence if you'd like). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until veggies are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf, stir in basil and season generously with salt and pepper. This dish can be served hot, warm, or cold, and can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead. It makes a wonderful side dish, or a base for grilled fish, but is also perfect as a light summer main course. Serve it with crusty bread and good wine. Yum!