In Nice, the end of September is usually sunny and some years you can actually still dive into the sea for a quick bath. It seems this year is just not one of those years… In the last two weeks we probably had enough rain to last until next spring. And it getting cooler, making me crave both hot chocolate and very summery dishes.
To somehow counter this fall atmosphere, I wanted to make a very sunny looking meal. I had some nice ground meat in the freezer and a few of the last summer vegetables in the fridge. Why not make a ratatouille with homemade hamburgers.
Ratouille is originally a food for the French Riviera and one of those food that gets better and better each time you reheat it. It is definitely a simple food to prepare but as always they are a few tricks to make it failproof. Let me address the basics of a good and flavor packed ratatouille:
- Selecting the ingredients – As always, it is better to make it when the ingredients are in season i.e summer. But, one of the main pitfall of rataouille is soggy veggies. You can avoid a lot of problems by selecting smaller vegetables. Smaller = less water = more flavors.
- Cutting the veggies – You don’t really need to be precise but you do want to cut everything into rather small pieces, especially the eggplant as it will melt while cooking.
- Adding the veggies in the right order – You still want to keep some texture. So using the same principle as wok cooking, add the ingredients that takes longer to cook – and can’t be eaten raw – first.
- Cooking time – Long cooking is key ! You want to have an almost jam like effect. So you need low heat and to cover the veggies at first (to retain moisture and avoid adding water) and when it is cooked, uncover to let any excess moisture evaporate.
You will need
- 1 medium onion cut lenghtwise
- 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
- 1 medium/big eggplant
- 2 small bellpepper
- 4 small zucchini or 2 big ones
- 1 cup or 240mL tomato passata – you can also use 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes but prefer using passata
- dried provence mix herbs
- pepper or chili – I am using chili but if you use pepper I recommend adding it midway through
What should you do
- In a large saucepan, heat some oil – about 2 to 3 Tsp – add the onion, garlic, salt, chili and herbs. Let the onion cook a few minutes until wilted.
- Meanwhile cut all the veggies into small dices starting with the eggplant then the bellpepper, zucchini, tomato if you are using fresh ones. This is the order in which you will be adding them.
- Add the eggplant to the onion soffritto. Mix well and cover. Let it cook about 5 minutes on low heat or until all the eggplant has softened.
- Uncover, mix, add the bellpepper, mix, cover. Let cook for a few minutes.
- Repeat the same process with the zucchini and then the tomato (fresh or not).
- Cover and let the ratatouille cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring it occasionally. You want to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If it does, the heat may be too high or their is no excess moisture and you should stop the cooking.
- After 30 minutes, uncover and stir, if the ratatouille is still quite watery, continue cooking uncovered until it reduces to a denser consistancy.
- Let it cool and store in an airtight container for a week in your fridge
- Enjoy !