Ratatouille with Squash & Zucchini
Whether you call them aubergines or eggplants and courgettes or zucchini and crookneck squash, these vegetables form the foundation of a comforting peasant dish from Provence, France. Sliced, layered and baked or cut into chunks and simmered, ratatouille recipes include tomato paste, onions, garlic, herbes de Provence and slices or chunks of colorful bell pepper. Leave out the anchovies for a vegan, low-sodium version or add chunks of chicken, pork or beef for potlucks.
Preparing the Vegetables
A mandoline makes it easier to cut even-thickness slices for a layered, baked ratatouille. The guard prevents you from cutting your fingers when you remember to keep your fingers flat, not curled under, according to chef Eve Felder from the Culinary Institute of America. (see References 1) If you use the ruffled blade and rotate the vegetables a quarter-turn each time you run them across the mandolin, you get a waffle effect known as “gaufrette.” (see References 2) This slicing method creates the familiar waffle fries seen at festivals and fairs.
If you slice the courgettes and aubergines in half lengthwise, toss them in fresh herbs and oil and grill them, it decreases the moisture content and caramelizes the surface, allowing you to omit salt. Grilled vegetables cut into 1- and 2-inch cubes or chunks hold their shapes longer in simmered ratatouille than raw ones.
Preparing the Sauce
The saute pan should already be hot when you add the sesame or olive oil. Peeled, smashed garlic cloves should saute until their scent permeates the room, followed by any herbs or spices in the recipe. This pulls the essence of each spice to the surface and magnifies their effects on the flavor of the dish. Once you stir a 6 oz. can of tomato paste into the spices, you can add 2 tbsp. white wine and 3 to 4 tbsp. chicken stock to make a thin red sauce.
Putting It Together
The layered casserole version of ratatouille has more eye appeal if you alternate the yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper slices. The most eye-appealing ratatouille begins at the center of the casserole dish and works outward in a spiral, with the vegetables overlapped and tilted in a single layer.
Time and Temperature
As long as the casserole does not contain any meat, you do not have to cook it any longer once the sauce begins to bubble. Cook ratatouille that contains poultry to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Strips or cubes of pork need to cook to 145 degrees, while ratatouille containing beef or wild game should cook to 160 degrees. (see References 3)
- Kitchen Daily; How to Use a Mandoline; Eve Felder, Culinary Institute of America; 2011
- Garret’s Table; Potato Chips: Savory and Sweet; Garrett Kern
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service; Is It Done Yet?