Protean Ratatouille

Time: 30 minutes preparation 40 minutes no-work cooking time

This variable and eccentric ratatouille saves on time but isn’t short on taste. It is endlessly useful and can take on myriad characters: Mix in chunks of chicken or fish and eat it as a main course or serve it as a side dish for sautéed lamb chops or as a sauce to toss over pasta or rice. You can eat it chilled as a salad or scalding hot as a soup, or use it as a bed on which to braise veal shoulder chops or poach a fillet of salmon.

Ingredients

  • 4 bell peppers, preferably red or yellow
  • 2 medium-size onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds eggplant, about 3 medium-size
  • 2 cans (H½ ounces each) stewed tomatoes
  • teaspoons dried thyme 2 zucchini 2 yellow squash
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Core, seed, and finely chop the peppers. Finely chop the onions and mince the garlic.
  2. Heat the oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the onions and peppers and stir-fry for a minute to get them cooking. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until somewhat tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cut the eggplant into ¾-inch chunks, leaving the peel on. When the peppers and onions are tender, add the garlic, eggplant, tomatoes and thyme. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon; cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cut the zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise into halves or quarters, depending on how thick they are. Then cut the strips into ¾-inch lengths. Add the zucchini and squash to the stew, cover, and simmer until all of the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Variations

  1. Add 4 sliced carrots with the eggplant and finish the dish with ½ cup (tightly packed) fresh parsley or basil leaves that you have minced.
  2. For a one-pot dinner: Stir 1 pound cubed boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ham, or shellfish into the ratatouille once it is done. Cook just long enough to cook the meat or seafood, about 15 minutes.

Ratatouille Seafood Chowder

Thin ½ recipe ratatouille with 1 cup tomato juice and stir in 1 pound seafood such as scallops, monkfish cut into small pieces, or peeled shrimp. Simmer gently until the seafood is cooked and ladle the soup over dried cubes of crusty whole-wheat bread for a bread-cum-fish main-course soup.

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