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Ratatouille is another internationally recognised French dish, hailing from the southeastern French region of Provence. It is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on a high heat with a small amount of fat, and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs continually debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all the vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue that the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into a baking dish. The ingredients consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and other green herbs. A similar dish popular in the French Basque country is piperade, which typically adds ham and sometimes eggs to the stewed vegetable mix.


5 pounds eggplant
5 pounds zucchini
5 pounds fresh onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs: rosemary, savory, peppermint, thyme, and celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 Tablespoon sugar (beet sugar or evaporated cane juice for vegan ratatouille)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry yet fruity white wine, such as a Provencal Bellet (if making vegan ratatouille, make sure the wine is vegan)
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and seeded
5 pounds red bell peppers
A few drops of red wine vinegar (see note about wine)
3 Tablespoons chopped mixed herbs for garnish: basil, parsley, thyme, and celery


Prepare at least one day in advance, giving the ratatouille time to mellow. Note that the cooking time is 4 hours.

1. Stem and peel the eggplant. Cut the flesh into 1" cubes and place them in a deep kettle filled with very salty water. Keep submerged with a non-corrodable palte for at least 1 hour. Stem and peel the zucchini. Cut flesh into 1" cubes and place in a deep colander. Toss the zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour.

2. Meanwhile, in a very large heavy skillet or heavy-bottomed roasting pan cook the chopped onions and 1/2 cup water in 1 cup olive oil until the water has evaporated and the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped herbs, bay leaf, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.

3. Coarsely chop the tomatoes with their skins in the work bowl of a food processor. Add to the skillet and continue cooking at a simmer 1 1/2 hours. Whenever the onion-tomato mixture starts to stick or burn, "spot deglaze" with a few tablespoons water and scrape with a wooden spoon.

4. Grill the peppers; when cool, peel, stem, seed and cut into small pieces. Set aside. Rinse and drain the eggplant and zucchini and lightly press dry with toweling.

5. Slowly heat the remaining 3 cups of olive oil in a wide pan or fryer until medium-hot. Add the zucchini in batches, and fry until golden on all sides. Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a colander set over a boil to catch any excess oil. When all the zucchini has been fried, fry the eggplant in the same manner. From time to time return the "captured" oil in the bowl to the pan.

6. Spread the zucchini, eggplant, and peppers over the simmering onion-tomato mixture and pour in the remaining wine. Cover and cook at the simmer for 1 1/2 hours. From time to time remove the cover to help evaporate some of the liquid. Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the skillet into it to drain. Stir carefully to avoid crushing the vegetables while trying to encourage any trapped oil and juices to drain. Quickly cool down the captured juices in order to remove as much oil as possible. If there is a lot of juice, boil it down until thick. Reserve all the frying oil and oil from the vegetables for later use. Pour the juices over the vegetables, taste for seasoning, add vinegar if necessary, and carefully stir to combine. Serve hot or cold. Sprinkle with fersh herbs.


french cuisine 9.jpg

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