You Must Eat Ratatouille at Least Once in your Lifetime!
At this time of year, farmer’s markets are full of delicious summer vegetables. It is interesting to see how we actually change our cooking habits with the seasons. In summer of course, I think that we want lighter meals, cooler in many ways, although I tend to believe that they do not necessarily cool us down. To me, the change also occurs in the colors that you want to put in your plate. Whereas in fall color tones are muted, in summer they are vibrant and shine, just like the sun that we get plenty of! Ratatouille is a true classic of French cooking that I am sure we all have at least one recipe of. Colorwise, I find that it is neither a fully autumn nor a fully summer dish. It is rather in the middle, between the two seasons, as it uses summer vegetables but has muted fall colors. Defined as a vegetable stew, it then comes to no surprise that la ratatouille is a comfy and rustic type of food. The best! For those who do not necessarily know what it is, let me say a few words about it, on how I grew to love this dish for so long disliked when I was a little girl.
My story with ratatouille is of the hate/love type. As mentioned already in previous ramblings, I am lucky to have grown up with a mum, grandmothers and aunts who each had huge large vegetable gardens, where you could find any possible and imaginable vegetable. At that time of the year, we had so much that it was hard to know what to do with them, and that is not even counting kind neighbors bringing baskets full of fresh fruit or vegetables.
(Our next-door neighbor speaking to my mum)
Madame M. : “Véronique, je vous ai ramené un panier de courgettes.”
Ma mère : Ah merci, c’est gentil ! Dites-moi, qu’est-ce qu’elles sont grosses! Les vôtres sont toujours en avance !”
Mrs M.: “Véronique, I brought you a basket of zucchinis.”
My mum: Ah thanks, very kind of youl ! Tell me, they are so big! Yours are always ahead!”
Of course, Madame M. had this kind of secret that we always wondered about. Take this. If Madame M. did not have any salad growing yet, then we always felt fine to see that ours was not showing either. Her garden was the reference. But then, if we saw her zucchinis grow and that ours hardly showed flowers — our garden was just next to hers — we always wondered how she did it! Did she talk to her veggies? What did she feed them with? As of today, I still do not know her secret, but despite the fact that she is probably 80 years old or so, her garden is still impeccable, and mum often gets full baskets of the crop of the moment. Madame M. is an amazing woman.
So because during summer, we always had so many zucchinis and tomatoes, my mum cooked a lot of ratatouille. And I simply used to hate it. Not a small tiny insignificant hate. A big solidly anchored hate. Every time she decided to make ratatouille for lunch, I thought she was trying to punish me. Encore de la ratatouille ! (Ratatouille, again!) This went on for years until one day, when something happened in me. One of those déclics (click) that makes you change your mind drastically. I don’t know what it is but from hating ratatouille, I went to loving it dearly. It is one of those paradoxes that I cannot explain rationally because there is not a logic reason behind. As soon as I left home to go and study at university — I was 17 — , my mum always gave me large supplies of tall jars of preserved ratatouille she had prepared during summer, which were the perfect way for me to eat healthy lunches while studying. I loved her for that, even if I felt bad to literally be emptying her winter food stock every season. Mothers are the best!
Ratatouille is a traditional dish from Nice in the South of France. Its name comes from two French verbs, tatouiller and ratouiller, both coming from the verb touiller which means to stir up. Because this is what you do when you make ratatouille. You stir the vegetables. Today, many ratatouille variations exist all across Provence and everywhere in France, although we cannot but refer to this coarse vegetable stew as la ratatouille niçoise. In it, you usually find eggplants, zucchinis, peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onions cooked in olive oil. Simple and rustic but really delicious. To me, the key is to simmer this stew for a minimum of an hour, uncovered, so that the flavors develop together. As a matter of fact, the more it cooks, the better it is. Make note of what P. often tells me when I make ratatouille “C’est encore meilleur réchauffé !” (It is even better reheated!)
I like to cook mine with a bay leaf and freshly chopped tarragon because it gives it a herb fragrance I personally like. I also add a pinch of sugar to prevent the tomatoes to provide too much acidity. But then, it is the quality of the tomatoes that drive it and make the difference, which is why it is so important to make this dish at the peak of the season, when tomatoes are ripe and sweet.
How to eat it?
I enjoy eating my ratatouille with a dash of white balsamic vinegar, but not everyone likes to do so. It is delicious on its own, with a nice loaf of pain de campagne (don’t you love to dip your croûton in the thick sweet sauce!), or served with rice, meat or fish. The bonus is also that you can eat it warm, or cold, which makes it your perfect friend for summer barbecues. There is no good reason not to love vegetables!
- 2 medium sized zucchinis (11 oz)
- 2 small eggplants (11 oz)
- 2 shallots
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 lb + 2 to 4 oz tomatoes
- 1/2 yellow pepper
- 1/2 red pepper
- 1 Tbsp tarragon, chopped
- 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp fine sugar
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Chop all vegetables in small cubes.
- Chop the garlic and shallots thinly.
- Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a thick-bottomed pot (Le Creuset style).
- Add the zucchinis and eggplants and cook for 5 mns until softer. Set aside.
- Heat 2 more Tbsp olive oil and then add the garlic, peppers and shallots. Cook for 3 to 4 mns, until softer.
- Add the tomatoes and mix well. Cook for 5 mns before adding the zucchinis and eggplants again.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the chopped herbs, the bay leaf and the tsp of sugar, and cook uncovered on low heat for 1 hour.
Note: I usually sprinkle coarse salt on the eggplants placed in a sieve, and let them on the side like this for 30 mns minimum. It helps with their cooking. In French, this technique is called dégorger les légumes. (légume = vegetable)
- 2 courgettes de taille moyenne (300 g)
- 2 aubergines (300 g)
- 2 échalotes
- 3 gousses d’ail
- 500 à 600 g de tomates
- 1/2 poivron jaune
- 1/2 poivron rouge
- 1 càs d’estragon haché
- 1 càs de persil haché
- 1 feuille de laurier
- 1 càc de sucre fin
- Huile d’olive
- Sel et poivre
- Coupez tous les légumes en petits cubes.
- Hachez les gousses d’ail et les échalotes.
- Faites chauffer 2 càs d’huile d’olive dans une casserole à fond épais (type Le Creuset).
- Ajoutez les courgettes et les aubergines et cuisez pendant 5 mns jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient tendres. Mettez de côté.
- Dans la même casserole, faites chauffer 2 autres càs d’huile d’olive et faites-y revenir l’ail et les échalotes avec les poivrons. Cuisez pendant 3 à 4 mns, jusqu’à ce que les légumes soient translucides.
- Ajoutez les tomates et mélangez. Cuisez pendant 5 mns avant d’ajoutez le mélange courgette/aubergine.
- Assaisonnez avec du sel et du poivre.
- Ajoutez les herbes, la feuille de laurier, la càc de sucre et faites cuire à feux doux pendant 1 heure, à découvert.
Remarque : Je fais en général dégorger les aubergines 30 mns minimum, avec du gros sel, pour faciliter la cuisson.
What a gorgeous, fresh-looking summer dish! A great alternative to salad.
I love ratatouille! This is a great summer-y dish. Your version looks delicious!
I wanted to spotlight this post for the Blogher site, and use one of your photos (with a photo credit for you of course and links to yuur site and the post.) However, since I saw a copyright on the photo, I wasn’t sure if you minded one of your photos being used that way. I could put it in without the photo if you prefer. Can you e-mail me and let me know how you feel about it.
kalynskitchen AT comcast DOT net
j’adore la progression en image de ta recette avec les beaux légumes en direct du jardin!
I adore ratatouille!! It tastes so good hot or cold, but I think I prefer it cold just a tiny bit more. And I think it improves if you have leftovers. Beautiful pictures!
En bien comme toujours, une recette alléchante et des photos à tomber…woaw !!! Ca sent bon l’été en tout cas (ce qui n’est plus vraiment le cas chez nous, il faisait 12°C ce matin… début août…)
Je pense que toutes les personnes qui n’aimaient pas la ratatouille (celle qui est toute écrasée, bouillie informe de légumes) devraient essayer de la préparer comme toi…
P.S J’aime bien l’histoire qui est derière la recette, en en plus en anglais, ça à tout son charme 😉
I am one of those people that haven’t ttried ratatouille, mostly because i just didn’t know what it was. This is a beautiful post, there is something special about using seasonal vegetables : )
Que ta ratatouille est appétissante! Les photos sont superbes, tout ton blog est superbe! EN plus, j’apprends que tu es Lorraine et moi aussi je suis d’origine Lorraine (près de Metz)même si maintenant j’habite en région parisienne .Félicitations pour ton admirable blog!
OMG! The color!!! Che colore!!! Bea you’re really ‘kicking butt’ with your photos… There’s a kind of spontaneous quality that I love about them. Although I do appreciate that soft, natural, light-from-behind-the curtain illumination, there’s something so alive about pics taken outdoors too. Just makes me want to sneak over the fence and pinch my neighbors veggies. ;-)!!!
Beautiful summer colors!
So how old were you when you gave up hating it and does your mother know now?
When I was growing up, I always wanted them (big family times) to make chocolate ice cream but at least 75% of the time they would make peppermint. I hated peppermint. Only about 25 years ago, I woke up one morning craving peppermint like there was no tomorrow and no other flavor ice cream to bother with. Yes, like you, I’m unable to articulate the logic behind how or why that comes about.
Ah mon avis Bea, c’est le fumier de lapin qui fait tout, pour la taille des courgettes…
C’est drole comme il y a autant de recettes de ratatouille que de cuisineres. J’essaierai avec de l’estragon tiens.
hi bea, what a yummy looking ratatouille! i always think it is one of those things that always tastes even better the next day!
I love ratatouille as well. Did you ever see the film, The Dreamers, released about 3 years ago? It was set in France and one character made a horrific, burnt ratatouille. I always remember that scene and smile when I think of the dish. Lovely post!
Heureusement, qu’il n’y a pas que les gens du sud qui font une excellente ratatouille !
i like this word, ratatouille…haven’t tried it though…looks so fresh and as ever, gorgeous!
Love the black cast iron pot… how i would love to get my hands on one of those and of course, the ratatouille too 🙂
Btw, still no news on my hunt for the lights. I have until autumn time to look.
Bulls Eye. You’ve done it again Bea and I shall get off my duff and make this one. Because who doesn’t love ratatouille in the summertime? I’ve read that some like to cook the vegeteables seperately and bring them together in the end but I like your way best. Your photos are stupendous! Lush
J’aime beaucoup la ratatouille car elle rassemble mes légumes préférés! Je vais essayer ta recette…
Thanks May I agree with you. Nice as a cold cooked salad actually!
Kat, thanks my dear!
Kalyn, I loved the post on Blogher and thanks for the mention. I hope you enjoy the ratatouille.
Mercotte, ce sont les meilleurs, pas vrai ?
Sher, yes totally agree with you. A great leftover dish!
Merci Claude-Olivier ahahh oui la bouillie, tu me fais rire ! 😉
Jenjen, oh you have to try, I am sure you will love it. It is summer in your plate !
Lauriana, ah oui, génial. Je viens d’un petit village à 70 kms de Metz ! 😉
Rowena, thanks! That is a real nice ompliment coming from you. And I hear you, I got homegrown tomatoes from a friend yesterday and was in heaven!
Tanna, yes it is funny, isn’t it? How we change food habits like this, without a logical explanation.
Gracianne, ahahha. Je retiens cela! Je ne savais pas !
J, thanks my dear. Indeed, reheated is the best for this dish. Flavors develop even more.
Julie, ah no, I didn’t see it. I will have to add it to my list. I want to see this scene!
Fabienne, ah mais que oui ! 😉
Ces, oh you have to give it a try!
Mae, ah yes, I like this cast iron dish too 😉 Did you search on line for the lights? I will see what I find on my end, will let you know.
Carol, ah let me know how it goes! Thanks for your nice note, as usual.
Mitsuko, j’espère que tu aimeras !
Merci à tous
très belle présentation! vive la ratatouille “à la lorraine” 🙂
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About 10 years ago, my wife and I were shopping at the Saturday market in Apt. As we were leaving, the market was closing down and we came upon a lady selling vegetables who had a lot of unsold inventory. We purchased a panier of assorted veggies and took them back to Roussillion and I made the best ratatouille I have ever made. Every time I have that dish now, I think of that wonderful day. Just like Proust’s Madelines, I guess.
J. This is a great memory to have indeed! It is nice to see how food can connect us to nice moments in life! Thanks for sharing it!
wonderful to see my favorite summer fare is enjoed by so many! , I have been making it for years from a recipe inspiration – from Traditional French Cooking by Jennie Reekie a cookbook I had for years.
I wait every summer for the eggplants to be in season so I can make this dish with fresh local produce. To add even more Med flavor I like to add some olives sliced up
yum can’t wait to make and eat again.
Hi Bea, I just posted my version of Ratatouille, a little different so I’m calling it Ratatouille Wanna-Be. I loved the way it turned out, so thanks again for your recipe.
Just last night I was remarking to my partner, as we devoured big bowls of ratatouille, how much I hated it as a child. Now it hardly seems like summer without it. Thanks for sharing your memories, recipe and lovely photos.
I made this tonight, Bea, and it is delicious! The vegetables were fresh from my CSA farm box (the best you can get, without having your own garden). I love the tarragon in this–I’ve never put it in ratatouille before and it adds such a nice, light, bouncy flavor.
Thanks for the wonderful recipe. It might have to become *my* ratatouille too, even though I come from California:-)
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I love this recipe and I love the way you present it on this picture… It looks irristible! I am not a huge fan of tarragon, so I used fresh basil and a bit of fresh thyme ( this is how I learned to make it in France) It is wonderful! Especially the next day with some fresh baguette!
This looks delightful! My mom makes a great ratatouille which I recently learned to make also and I love it.
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Very nice blog ! i saw that you come from Lorraine, don’t hesitate to go to Lorraine Café, a lot of nice Lorrainers there, some of them can speak english
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Magnifique ! Excellent side dish – I intend to reheat the leftovers with a bit of cheese melted over top, to make gratatouille ;0)
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I am proposing to try making your delicious-sounding ratatouille this weekend; the trouble is, as I live alone, I usually tend to cook a large batch and freeze for the following few weeks. Can you please confirm whether the ratatouille is suitable for freezing?
Bob Bull firstname.lastname@example.org
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The collection of images you have posted are so enticing, I can’t resist attempting cooking it myself. Thank you for sharing the recipe & story. Fingers cross, mine looks as delicious as yours.
I stumbled across this in my search for french food for a Murder Mystery dinner I was hosting this past week. We had this as our second course and it was amazing. I have never had ratatouille before because I had no idea what it was. I was pleasently surprised and can’t wait to make it this summer with veggies straght out of the garden!!
I am from northen France, and remember when my mother cooked ratatouille nicoise. It was always an excellent dish.
Merci pour la recette.
Without a doubt, this is my favorite recipe for Ratatouille and I’ve tried quite a few. Thank you so much for posting it, it’s really wonderful!
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Fantastic! Wow. I chose this recipe because it asked for fresh tarragon, which I have been growing this year. Was I pleasantly surprised! I served it over whole wheat couscous with a sunny side egg on top. I was in heaven! Thank you for sharing!
I wish I could cook these for my girl. She has an fructose intolerance, so like you cannot have gluten, she can only have few veggies. If you ever find a receipt like this without tomatoes or red/yellow veggies 🙂
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