Growing up, my mother always made ratatouille…and I never appreciated it. I grew to like it as an adult and LOVE it as a plant-based eater. I defy anyone to find as satisfying and guiltless a dish. Small in calories and big in flavor. Not the most attractive of dishes, but it makes up for that in sheer flavor.
I just finished my lunch – the remnants of my latest batch of ratatouille. It held special significance, as it was my first batch as a plant-based eater. It was also, surprisingly enough, the dish I dreamed about the last three weeks of my juice fast. I couldn’t wait to go to the farmers market or grocery store and load up on eggplant, zucchini and peppers. Coming off of a long-term fast, introducing food can be a challenge and I knew ratatouille would fit the bill of being nutritious and light.
When it comes to ratatouille, I’m a bit of a purist. Vegetables, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Some people roast the vegetables individually and layer them. Others salt and press their eggplant. I’m too lazy for all that. Here’s my recipe, in all of its simple glory
2 TB olive oil
2 eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
3-4 zucchini, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 large yellow onion, sliced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped into 1-inch slices
6 small or 4 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt & pepper
dried or fresh basil (optional)
dried or fresh parsley (optional)
In a large pot (I use an enamel, cast iron Dutch oven), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook for 5 minutes or they begin to soften.
Add minced garlic and cook for 2 more minutes – until fragrant.
Add eggplant and zucchini and cook until they begin to soften – 10-15 minutes.
Add tomatoes and cook, stirring mixture a few times, for 5 minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for approximately 1/2 an hour to an hour.
If using parsley and/or basil, add to mixture and stir in just prior to serving
Keep in mind: ratatouille gets better as it sits. I can’t help myself and always want to eat some as soon as I make it, but I know that the leftovers in the refrigerator will get continually better for the next 2-3 days. I normally serve with some brown rice on the side.