I’ve been meaning to write about making ratatouille for a few weeks now. I don’t mean the beautiful baked version from the cartoon movie – wonderful though that is, it’s not the one I make every year, late in tomato season, when all the ingredients are ready fresh from the harvest.
There’s quite a lot of chopping involved in making a big pot of ratatouille, but I find it very simple and definitely worthwhile. You might like to make this an afternoon project with a friend, splitting the results. This makes a very large pot of ratatouille. I use a 20-quart stockpot, which is a little big for the purpose – I’d say you should use at least a 12-quart pot. If you prefer to make a smaller batch, cut the ingredients to one-third of these listed amounts. You’ll still have a generous portion.
A note on the ingredients: I prefer to use red onions in ratatouille, but big Spanish onions work well, as will plain ordinary yellow cooking onions. You will need crushed tomatoes. I often make this on a canning day, so having 6 cups of freshly crushed tomatoes is easy. Canned crushed tomatoes will work well, also, as will canned tomato paste.
Start by salting eggplant, and let it stand for about 2 hours – this will drive liquid out of the vegetable, and reduce bitterness. Be ready to chop of lot of vegetables, and be sure to use a big pot.
Covered and well sealed containers of ratatouille will keep in the freezer for up to 18 months.
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 3-4 lbs eggplants (2-3 eggplants)
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 lbs onions
- 3 lbs yellow summer squash, green zucchini, or a mixture
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 6 c crushed tomatoes (canned are okay)
- 6 oz tomato paste
- fresh herbs, chopped: parsley, dill, basil, oregano
SALT THE EGGPLANT AND LET DRAIN
- First, the eggplant: slice them crosswise into 3/4″ slices, then cut the slices into 3/4″ strips. Put these strips in a really large colander, sprinkle them with 2 Tbsp salt, and mix well. Let them stand 2 hours or so, stirring a couple of times.
- THen rinse them under cold running water, rubbing the strips lightly, to remove the salt. Shake the colander well to drain, then lay the strips on towels, cover, and press each strip firmly, until the water is absorbed and the strips are leathery. Now cut those strips into 3/4″ cubes and set aside.
MEANWHILE, PREP VEGGIES
- While the eggplant is draining, peel the onions and chop them coarsely. Cut the squashes in 3/4″ chunks. Cut the peppers in chunks about the size of a postage stamp. Mince the garlic – the last time I made this, I used an entire head of garlic, to make about 2 Tbsp minced. Chop a generous amount of parsley (think 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped), and a smaller amount of dill, oregano, and basil. If you don’t have fresh herbs, dried will do, in which case, use 2 Tbsp each dried basil and oregano.
- Heat the oil in a very large pot. (I use a 16-quart kettle) Saute the onions, and when they begin to be translucent, stir in the squashes, peppers, and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are wilted, and lightly colored. Now stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and the herbs. Stir well, then simmer a bit, until the vegetables begin to soften. The time will vary depending on the size and shape of your pot.
- Add the eggplant cubes, stir well, and simmer again, until all the vegetables are cooked through. Stir occasionally. Season to taste.
- Ladle into smaller containers. Cool well for at least an hour on the counter in open containers, then refrigerate. Label and freeze once the contents are cold.Never put hot things directly into the freezer!