Fresh veggies come to life in Grilled Ratatouille
This May 29, 2017 photo shows grilled ratatouille in Coronado, Calif. This dish is from a recipe by Melissa d’Arabian. (Melissa d’Arabian via AP) CAMA102
Ratatouille is a classic vegetable dish starring eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion and tomato that is deeply steeped in the culture of Mediterranean France. When I married a man from Provence, one of the first lessons I received from my new mother-in-law Muriel was how to make a proper ratatouille.
Turns out, my American sensibilities had me cooking a ratatouille far too long, making it a stew of indistinguishable mixed vegetables.
Muriel was kind in her rebuke, and showed me her way instead. The most important lesson was to cook each vegetable separately. Moreover, the vegetables needed to be cooked in the same pan, in a specific order, so that the flavors would be built just right. (The order: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion, tomatoes. I use the acronym EZ-POT to remember.)
I was skeptical. But her version is easily the best I have ever eaten.
After years of following proper EZ-POT protocol, I decided to try an outdoor grilled version of ratatouille. A little summertime char on the veggies could be a good thing. And indeed it was.
Grilled ratatouille is a happy complement to grilled meat or fish, and it's hearty enough to be the main dish for vegetarians. And leftovers can be spooned on top of roasted potatoes, rice, a green salad, or even spread on toast.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."
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2 small or 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch slices (no need to peel)
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 sweet yellow or red pepper, cut into "cheeks" or quarters, seeds removed
1 medium sweet white onion, peeled, quartered with root intact (to keep it together)
1 pint grape tomatoes
Olive oil in mister
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons high-quality olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper
6-7 basil leaves, gently torn
Heat the grill to medium and lightly oil the grates. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and spray them lightly with the olive oil mister to coat. (If you don't have a mister, pour a little oil in your hands and lightly toss the vegetables in a bowl using your hands to lightly coat them.)
Cook the vegetables on the grill until tender but not floppy, turning halfway through cooking time — about 12 to 15 minutes total for eggplant, onion quarters and sweet pepper, 8 to 10 minutes for zucchini and 2 minutes for tomatoes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: Whisk together lemon juice and red wine vinegar in a small bowl and drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to make an emulsion. Add the garlic, thyme and salt and pepper to taste, and an additional tablespoon of water if needed to make more sauce.
As the vegetables are removed from the grill, chop the onion (the inside may not be fully cooked and that's okay), cut the rest of the veggies into nice-sized cubes and place in a large bowl. The pepper skin will be charred and can be kept or removed.
Pour the dressing over the vegetables while still warm and toss gently. Add the fresh basil leaves to the vegetables and stir. Adjust salt and pepper for seasoning and serve, hot, at room temperature or chilled.
Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 126 calories (49 calories from fat), 5g fat (1g saturated, 0g trans fats), 0mg cholesterol, 14mg sodium, 19g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 11g sugar, 4g protein.