RATATOUILLE NIÇOISE is a traditional dish from the area of southern France known as Provence, specifically the city of Nice, where its few simple ingredients are grown in abundance. There are many recipes for ratatouille and although the shapes of the vegetables and the proportions used may vary, the basic ingredients do not. Onion, green pepper, eggplant, zucchini, and tomato are always used.
There are two methods of preparing ratatouille. In the first, each vegetable is cooked separately and then mixed together for serving. The liquid left over from the cooking is usually discarded.
I prefer a second method in which all the vegetables are cooked slowly in one pot, often for several hours, until they are soft. Their colors darken and blend, creating a rich, earthy hue, while their flavors and liquids blend and thicken to create a savory sauce. This method allows you to do other things as the ratatouille cooks, while the first method requires more time and attention.
There are two aspects to my technique that are important to the ratatouille’s texture and richness. The first is the size of the cut-up vegetables—I cut them all into ½- to ¾-inch dice, which makes the ratatouille easier to use as a spread or a filling. Second is the way I enrich the ratatouille by reducing the excess cooking liquids to a rich, syrupy sauce for the vegetables. This simple procedure makes a world of difference.