Ratatouille: the complicated kind

Alexandra (Sasha) Fedorova
3 min readOct 26, 2020

This recipe of ratatouille is a blend of Julia Child’s and Michel Richard’s (the latter shared by Bill Buford in his book “Dirt”). It is more complicated than most people would care to make, but the idea is that cooking all vegetables separately brings out more intense flavour.

I provide both text and videos, both saying essentially the same, so you can either read or watch!

Ingredients:
Zucchini (about 3)
Eggplants (1, or more if you like you ratatouille more bitter, or skip them altogether if you want a sweeter version)
Sweet peppers (4, 5 or more)
Tomatoes (in season only, 4 or 5)
Onions (1 large)
Garlic (a couple cloves or more to taste)
Salt and pepper
Parsley

1.Prep zucchini and eggplant — in advance
The night before you plan to make the ratatouille, or several hours before, cut up zucchini and eggplants into bite-sized pieces and salt them. Put the eggplants into a bowl under a press. You may also put a press on top of zucchini, or just put them into a colander over the sink, without the press. This will render liquid and create more concentrated flavours. If you want a sweeter taste of your ratatouille, peel the eggplant before using. I also find that lighter coloured eggplants render a sweeter, nuttier taste than the dark coloured kinds, so I always look for those at the farmers market.

2. Brown zucchini and eggplant
Brown zucchini and eggplant in a hot pan with plenty of olive oil. We don’t want to crowd the pan or mix too often. We don’t want to steam the vegetables, but rather encourage the Maillard reaction to get rich and concentrated flavours.

3. Caramelize the onions, slice and roast peppers and tomatoes
Slice one or two large onions and put them into a large casserole with a bit of olive oil over low-medium heat to caramelize.

While they are cooking, pre-heat the oven to 375 F, slice about four large peppers and about four large tomatoes. Arrange them on two or more cooking sheets. Make sure they don’t overlap or crowd. Salt and toss them with oil on the trays. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until they begin browning. You don’t want them steamed: if your vegetables look boiled rather than roasted, leave them in the oven longer.

4. Add garlic
Once the onions are ready, add crushed garlic. I use a whole head of garlic; the taste of garlic won’t be strong once it cooks. Do not add salt at this point, as zucchini and eggplant may have enough. Better wait till ratatouille is ready and then add salt if needed.

5. Put everything together
Once the tomatoes and peppers are ready, add them, along with the eggplant and zucchini into the casserole with the onions. Now you have two options. If you like a jam-like quality to your ratatouille, then cook everything covered first, for the vegetables to become very soft (about 30 minutes), and then uncovered to evaporate the liquid. If you prefer that the vegetables hold their shape, cook uncovered until much of the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables begin to caramelize at the bottom of the pan. Scrape those tasty caramelized bits and mix them with the rest of the ratatouille, then cook a bit more to produce more of the caramelized bits. Scrape and mix again, repeat until the whole thing looks ready and delicious. To get that caramelization use a cooking vessel that will allow some sticking (e.g., not a non-stick pan). I used a cast-iron enameled pan.

6. Serve with parsley or cilantro when ready!
Once the vegetables look like they are cooked, the ratatouille is ready! If there is too much liquid, let it simmer uncovered until the desired level is reached. Serve with parsley or cilantro!

It’s ready!

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Alexandra (Sasha) Fedorova

I research computer systems, raise young scientists and consult in the area of systems performance. I am a professor at the University of British Columbia.