Ratatatatatouille!

It’s getting to be about that time again. That magical point in the winter where I start to champ at the bit in readiness for spring, where the prospect of being further lost in the wasteland of kale and turnips makes me want to commit ritual hara kiri. I want sunshine on my skin! I want to wear dresses! I want to stop living on cheese! (I know. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But there it is.)

Or, failing all of that, I at least want to eat a vegetable with some freaking color in it. I know, I know. Irresponsible Shiv, with her carbon footprint the size of the Superdome. But…I mean…sometimes in the deep midwinter, you just need a damn tomato. Vitamins, people! Vitamins and cheer!

ratatatat

And it was with that chipper attitude that I approached dinner on Sunday night. I was freshly back from New Orleans, and really excited to rattle around in my kitchen; I was also, however, utterly exhausted, more than a little shell-shocked, and didn’t want to rattle around the kitchen for TOO long. I was also completely depressed by the gray and unforgiving state in which I found my home city upon my return (New York in February: No.), and needed some color; conveniently, Bench (having fended for himself all week) was also in the mood for something colorful and healthy. After a bit of hemming and hawing, we decided to make something that was not only completely veg-tastic, but is a breath of pure summer in the bleak midwinter–and something I’ve been dying to make for a while.

Ratatouille.

Say it out loud. It can’t decide if it wants to pop or sashay. Glorious!

Also delicious, and simple, and quick. At its most basic, ratatouille is a french vegetable stew–tomatoes, squash, and other wonderful things sauteed and then simmered with a few sprigs of thyme. You don’t cook it long, because you want the vegetables to retain their personality;  you want it on the stove just long enough to perfume your house and chase away some winter blues.

We made ours with tomatoes, yellow squash, orange bell peppers, and (against Bench’s initial judgment) eggplant, and it was a knockout. The eggplant became silky and seductive, the peppers smoky and sweet. The thyme infused the whole business with a simple elegance and an absolutely irresistible smell. It was, in short…exactly what the doctor ordered. Warm, simple, sweet, savory, and full of sunshine.

Ratatatatouille!

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
3 red, yellow, or orange  bell peppers; stemmed, seeded, and cut into approximately 1-inch pieces
1 medium-sized eggplant
2 medium-sized yellow squash, cut into approximately 1-inch cubes
1 medium sized onion, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2-3 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

  1. Wash and slice the eggplant into rounds approximately 1/2 inch thick. Lay them out in a colander or on a paper towel, and sprinkle generously with salt on both sides. Let sit for a half hour, then rinse thoroughly and cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes.
  2. In a heavy pot, heat some oil over medium heat; add the onions and saute until translucent. Then, add in the following order (i’ve noted the approximate time that should elapse between additions): the eggplant (3-4 minutes); the peppers (3-4 minutes); the squash (2 minutes); the tomatoes and garlic. Switch the heat to low, throw in the thyme (with some salt and pepper, if you’re so inclined) and simmer for 20 minutes or so–basically, until it is thick, chunky, and stewlike.
  3. Resist the urge to eat the whole pot by yourself armed with nothing but a loaf of crusty bread.
  4. On second thought, don’t resist that urge at all.
In eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, vegetables, vegetarian

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