The Recipe - French Ratatouille

The Real-Deal French Ratatouille

As Stephanie Looten-Caceres from the Alps (and Provence) taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine 2012

Serves 8-10
Cooking time: 2 hours

2/3 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic squeezed in garlic press or minced
1 onion, peeled and diced
about 2 Tbsp herbes de Provence (mixed dried rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and oregano)
2 eggplants, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
3 yellow squash, peeled partly and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
4 zucchini, peeled partly and diced into 1/4 inch cubes
1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch squares
1 green pepper, cut into 1/2 inch squares
4 tomatoes, large dice
1/2 cup black olives (French if possible)

Peel the eggplants, zucchini and summer squash every other inch lengthwise so they keep some skin, which helps the pieces retain their shape throughout cooking. Peel and cut all the vegetables into desired shapes (listed above) and put into separate bowls.

Put a large soup pot with a lid and a large medium-to-large saute pan on the stove. Heat about 2 Tbsp  olive oil in the saute pan with a small handful of the onions and a generous sprinkle of herbes de Provence. Let these cook a couple minutes to infuse the oil with the flavorings, then add the tomatoes, along with a 4-5 black olives and about a clove's worth of garlic. When the tomatoes are cooked throughout, but still chunky, transfer the contents of the saute pan to to the large pot, and turn that on the lowest heat possible.

Repeat the same process with the squash now as you did with the tomatoes. (First olive oil and herbes de Provence, then the squash, garlic and olives). When the squash loses its firm, foamy quality and before it gets mushy, transfer the contents of the saute pan to the large pot.

Repeat the same cooking process with the eggplant. Add about a 1/4 cup water to keep the eggplant from sticking to the pan and to help steam the insides.

Repeat the same process with the peppers, omitting the olives this time.

Mix all the vegetables together in the big pot, add salt and pepper to taste, and cook covered on the lowest setting for 45 minutes to let the flavors meld. Serve with baguette, rice, or couscous, hot or cold. Stephanie also recommends freezing ratatouille for a summery treat mid-winter.

(Cooking the ingredients separately here allows each feature ingredient to keep its own texture and flavor which makes the dish more of a mixture as opposed to a vegetable spread.)

Easier French Ratatouille -- With Sweet Potato 

As Caroline Tricaud from Meudon, France, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine, 2012

Serves 4-6
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large eggplant
2 zucchinis
4 tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 sweet potato
1 yellow onion
About 1 Tbsp total: rosemary, thyme, marjorum, and/or oregano
couscous, rice or baguette

Mince garlic, dice onion (medium), and peel and cut the rest of the vegetables into 1 inch size pieces. She preferred 1/4 inch french fry shape for the sweet potato, triangles for the eggplant, half moons for the onions and peppers, and disks for the summer squashes. Cook couscous or rice according to directions on package. Drizzle olive oil into a large sautee pan on medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic in oil, then add the green and red peppers. After a couple minutes, add the eggplant, then the sweet potatoes, then the zucchini. Last, add the tomatoes. When all the vegetables are cooked, serve atop couscous or rice, or with slices of French baguette.