Friday, May 11, 2012

Cooking Corner: Ratatouille

Much thanks to the lovely Pish Posh for inspiring this post!

What do you think about when you read the word "ratatouille?" Does it conjure in your mind a Pixar animation mouse in Paris that prepares French dishes so delectable that it melts even the most permanent sneer of jaded food critics? 

Because if it does, that is totally understandable. Despite all my years of studying French language and culture, I myself had a vague knowledge of the Provençale dish until that film came out in 2007. 

(Oh, and while I'm on the subject of the film, I will take a moment to add that I was quite indignant when I discovered that the DVD I purchased for a film that is based in France didn't even have French-language audio or subtitle options when The Incredibles did.)

(Call it silly or even irrational, but that has been burning inside of me for years.)

For me, "ratatouille" evokes fond memories of when I spent a few happy weeks under the sunshine and vast azure skies of the South of France with my dear friend Mimi. During one trip, I had the opportunity to shop in the local grocer in the village of Solliès-Pont to buy his fresh produce. His corner of the world had character. Splashes of color were spread among the baskets and stalls. The fragrance of wild strawberries seeped into my nose, awakening my senses and creating a flood in my mouth. Bulbs of garlic hung from the ceiling as dried bouquets of flowers and lavender decorated the ochre walls.

I was fairly miffed that my camera's battery conveniently died during my outing.

Once we made it back to the Provençal retreat, it was then that our friend Lucienne instructed me on how to make what is possibly the best vegetable dish I have eaten to date, one that gladly made me ask for seconds when one bowl would have sufficed. My carefree joy short-lived, I was lucky enough to have had Lucienne pass down her wisdom to me so I could replicate the same recipe when I returned to the States.

Ratatouille à la Lucienne
Can be paired with white rice or enjoyed on its ownAmply serves 4 people...or one ravenous American.

1 eggplant/aubergine
2 zucchini/courgettes
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 pounds of tomatoes, preferably plum or vine-ripened
1 onion, preferably white
2 tbsp of olive oil
Fresh sprigs of parsley and basil 
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Equipment
Cutting board
Large sauce pan with lid
Wooden spoon
5 bowls

1) Prep all ingredients by washing the vegetables.

2) Take the vegetables and vent out your frustrations with the knife and cutting board, separating each ingredient in its own bowl

  • Cut the eggplant/aubergine into half-inch cubes and separate it into a bowl
  • Do the same to the zucchini/courgettes
  • Slice the bell peppers, discarding the middle section and cleaning the stray seeds
  • Have a cry and chop the onion
  • Remove the stem end of the tomatoes. Halve and then quarter each section. Do not throw away the seeds.
At this point, you should be ready to cook.

3) Tip the olive oil into the sauce pan and warm the heating element at the medium heat range. Once the oil starts to show signs of bubbling, dump the eggplant/aubergine cubes to brown them. Stir occasionally with the wooden spoon.

4) Once the cubes have been browned, remove the contents from the pan and then add the zucchini/courgette cubes. Cook for five minutes.

5) Stir in the bell peppers to the zucchini/courgette, cooking for 3-5 minutes. (The bell peppers will start to release water.)

6) Re-add the eggplant/aubergine.

7) At this point, you may add the salt and pepper to taste.

8) Layer the vegetable mixture with the chopped onion and then dump the tomato quarters on top. DON'T MIX YET.

9) Lower the temperature to low-medium range.You are now ready to cover the saucepan with the lid to cook for another 30 to 45 minutes.

10) Once the ratatouille has a consistency of chunky soup, stir the concoction and gently throw in the sprigs of parsley and basil. Cook for another 3 minutes.

11) Eat.

Please be conscious that, as it is with anything in life, everyone has their own cooking styles. If I were to try to make a recipe that my mother made, there will always be a lingering twinge of regret that what I've made isn't an exact replica.

I won't fool myself: my ratatouille is never going to taste like the one Lucienne made with her experienced panache.

But it's pretty damn close!

By the way, if you want to check out an awesome site for more veggie-friendly recipes and a humorous take on getting fit (both in the American and British sense of the word), I recommend visiting THE Pish Posh. Not only does she cook well but she also has a bust-a-gut sense of humor.

Go visit her. DO IT.

Barb the French Bean


  1. Nope, I think food. I'm almost always thinking about food! LOL

    Sounds delicious! I've always meant to try making that one day. Maybe soon...

  2. I love ratatouille! And now I'm starving... great to have this recipe. I make something very similar but usually leave out the eggplant. Maybe I should try it your way though and see how it turns out.

  3. This makes me hungry. I am going to do it, maybe tonight! If I can find a good eggplant.

  4. Ah this is wonderful! Thank you so much! I have never made this before and I do love eggplant when done correctly. So excited!

  5. I love love love ratatouille!! :P x

  6. This looks like a simple and delicious thing to make. Thanks for the recipe!

  7. i am now going to make this tomorrow and add it to my very short lists of foods I can prepare and eat with my boyfriend (he's a vegetarian and my skills tend to have more carnivorous leanings). Thanks!

  8. This is going on my menu for next week. Thank you!

  9. You know, never having watched that movie, I still have no real idea what Ratatouille is. Though it certainly does sound delicious. I've never really tried much in the way of French food.

  10. The only thing I got out of the movie was food and I was hungry after I watched it. This looks amazing!

  11. I'm not a terribly good cook but it seems that often with Pish's recipes, i'm running to get my wife, saying come look at this! You have to make this!. Today, that happened here. Thanks, it sounds delicious. :)

  12. Before I saw the movie, I thought ratatouille was made with rats. I never thought ratatouille would be so easy to make. I think I may prepare this tomorrow.

  13. I kid you not, after watching this movie with my wife, we both had to make the recipe. Fast forward 3 years later, and we still make it. We've improved it over the years and, simple as it is, it's really an awesome dish.

  14. This looks suspiciously healthy to me. Like it falls into the 'pile of vegetables' category of cooking.

    I will never ever make this dish. But if someone makes it for me, I will eat it. Looks nice. Just won't make it.


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