Provencal-inspired ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red bell peppers is THE dish to make from a summer abundance!
If ever there was a summer comfort food, ratatouille has got to be it. It’s a dish I eagerly look forward to making every summer when our garden goes into high gear — and it has officially done that!
There are endless variations of this stewed vegetable dish that originated in Nice in southern France. Ratatouille typically contains eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh herbs, all of which are abundant now.
In some versions, the vegetables are simply combined and cooked together for a long period of time until they become very soft. In other versions, the vegetables are sautéed or browned in stages, combined and then stewed in the oven or on the stovetop. I prefer the latter and only briefly simmer the stew on the stovetop so the vegetables retain their texture.
Eggplant is one of the main ingredients. It’s commonly believed that eggplant automatically has to be salted before cooking to draw out the bitterness. I think it’s personal preference. Eggplant normally has a mild but pleasing bitterness. It’s only when an eggplant gets large and seedy that it develops a pronounced bitter flavor.
For this dish, I salt the eggplant because it will absorb less oil when cooked. Extracting liquid from the eggplant makes it less spongy and more firm, resulting in less oil absorption. After draining and before cooking, pat dry with paper towels to remove the excess moisture and salt.
Another reason I love ratatouille is it’s so versatile. Enjoy it over brown rice, quinoa, couscous or with crusty, toasted or grilled French bread. It can be served hot, room temperature or even cold. You can make it ahead, cool and serve it the following day — the flavor will be even better.