Ratatouille – A Provençal Specialty
On the Italian side, when I was growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, my aunt’s family at the farm used to cook the vegetables with pieces of pancetta or fresh bacon and eat this dish for breakfast with lots of bread. In fact the men would eat this when they came back from the field with a couple of hours of work under their belt and before 3- 4 more hours of morning farming. We called it fricandó.
The French version is all vegetarian and can be served cold or hot, as hors d’oeuvre or to accompany meat or seafood. Josette Smyrl, our French friend and collaborator living in Provence, tells me that this dish without onions was called ‘Bohemienne’ when she was a young girl, although today that distinction has disappeared. She still makes this dish without onions, though. You choose!
I have taken this recipe from La Cuisine Méditerranéenne by Anna Macmiadhachain, Mary Reynolds, Claudia Roden and Helge Rubistein. Below the recipe I have added the changes I have made to the recipe.
Ingredients for 6-8 people:
Salt the eggplants and the zucchini generously and let them drip. Rinse and dry the excessive water.
Sauté the onions and the garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the eggplants and cook them until they are soft. Add the zucchini and the peppers, cover and cook slowly for thirty minutes. Mix with tomatoes, season and put the sugar and cook uncovered for thirty more minutes. The vegetables need to be soft and well mixed, without having lost their identity. Most of the liquid should be evaporated. Add the parsley and basil before serving.
After cooking the onions and garlic in a large frying non-stick pan for about 10-15 minutes, I transferred them into a large terracotta pot, then I cooked the eggplants for 15 minutes with some oil first and adding some water as they were cooking. I added them to the onions/garlic mixture. I then cooked the peppers and zucchini together and added them to the other vegetables. I threw the tomatoes in boiling water for 2 minutes and peeled and seeded them, chopped them coarsely and added them to the other vegetables. I cooked them all together for another 15-20 minutes. I also salted lightly the vegetables and sprinkled them with a mixture of dried herbs: thyme, rosemary and basil, as they were cooking. I did not put in any sugar. I finally added pepper and more salt, as well as some chopped parsley.