Ratatouille, a fancy French name for what is essentially vegetable stew, is typically a summer dish, chock-full of fresh eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.
Good thing we can get access to those veggies year-round at the grocery store, because I was craving a hot, comforting dish to help counteract this unseasonably cool winter air. Ratatouille is an easy-to-prepare option that has the added benefit of still being rather healthy.
This is the kind of dish where quality of ingredients and cookware is important. Because the components are so simple, they need to be rendered in a way that leaves them more than the sum of their parts. For that reason, most of the vegetables are typically cooked in batches to preserve their integrity, then combined and cooked some more to produce the final dish. Use fresh herbs if you can.
For the "winter" part of this recipe, we're subbing fresh tomatoes for canned tomatoes; go with a good brand you trust, and it's best to buy whole, peeled tomatoes.
It's best to use a wooden spoon when making this dish. If you don't have one, something nonmetal will also work. The idea is that a wooden spoon is able to scrape up all the goodness on the bottom of your pan without ruining the surface. The less severe edges of wood also help keep the vegetables more intact.
Like most stews, ratatouille tastes best when it is allowed to sit for a couple of hours (or days) so its flavors can deepen. It is divine served over a hearty base like buttery polenta. It's also sumptuous as a simple bowl of vegetables, or a component in, say, a pasta dish.
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