When I think Ratatouille, I seem to signal thoughts that some how feels like the finality of summer. Ambiguous thoughts that intertwine with the loss of the sun in my face– while welcoming the brisk beautiful winds of fall. Something about the abundance of my urban garden’s harvest always sets realities pace.
As the fall equinox appears– signaling a time of our final summer crops , this is also a time of signaling festive harvest gathering. Most urban gardeners grow beautiful herbs, succulent vine ripen tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini and an occasional eggplant. If you’re anything like me, you will want to savory every last moment of your summertime garden and participate in a mealtime gathering, and share your bounty.
Recently, I developed my own variation of a very classic recipe. Ratatouille. A hearty vegetable stew that is famously French. Hailing from Nice, France this pedigree recipe has many variations. Now you can add mine to the list. Depending on how you prepare your Ratatouille— the history of the dish remains the same. Ratatouille is a beautiful course vegetable stew historically prepared by the farmers of Province, France. The name, Ratatouille itself means, “to stir up”. From the late 18th century— according to the Chefs Bible, The Larousse Gastronomique , method of preparing this succulent stew claims, “according to the purists, the different vegetables should be cooked separately, then combined and cooked slowly together until they attain a smooth, creamy consistency”. According to the chair of the Larousse’s committee coined, “Chef of the century”— Joël Robuchon suggests —cooking each vegetable individually then adding them together will make each vegetable taste truly of itself. If you take the care, and the needed time to prepare this delicious stew— you will be rewarded with the last remnants of summer.
You might also be familiar with this famous dish as it has been eclipsed by a film of the same name deliciously starring a cartooned rat as a chef and clearly a new take on the recipe– fondly anchored from the famous American chef… Thomas Keller.
My variation of this classic recipe with leave you thinking your vegetable stew… certainly is meaty. The caramelized vegetables are earthily sweet, and those beneath are meltingly tender from their long, slow steaming. The sauce is deep and rich, rather than watery with the reductions. There are additional steps to get it there, but worth it.
2 medium eggplants, diced into 1inch thick discs, and cut into
1 large onion, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch thick discs- and again, into quarters
1 large red onion, peeled, and chopped into 1 inch thick discs- and again, into quarters
2 red bell peppers, seeded and deveined, cut into large 1 inch large rough chunks
2 large yellow Biscayne peppers, or yellow bell-peppers, seeded and deveined, cut into large 1 inch rough chunks
2 large zucchini, cut irregular into 1 inch chunks ( I cut using my knife strokes at 10 O’clock, and then 2 O’clock )
2 large yellow squash, cut irregular into 1 inch large chunks
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled, and minced- or equivalent
2 cups meaty beefsteak tomatoes de-seeded, cut in large 1 inch, rough chop chunks
2 cups of rich, homemade marinara sauce that has been reduced to thick
1 large bay leaf
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes ( optional )
1/2 cup good quality red wine or vegetable stock
1 small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, tied in a bunch
1 small bunch fresh garden thyme, tied in a bunch
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to adjust seasoning as needed
Here’s How :
Serve hot, or cold. Happy Harvest!
Chef Gigi is recognized nationally as an expert in culinary education. She specializes in families and adults to help increase nutritional awareness and help take some of the stress out of being a busy-aware adult. Chef has coached thousands of children and adults how to shop, prep, cook and eat better. She has developed signature techniques while teaching two decades of hands on classes, private events, public speaking, writing, professional culinary demonstrations, television and radio engagements.Gigi, also was the former Academic Director who wrote and implemented the famed French Culinary School- Le Cordon Bleu’s, Hospitality Management Program. Currently, Gigi works as a freelance food writer, learning and development coach– while continuing as an instructional designer. Chef co-authored, “Learning with Little Lulu Lemon” and has appeared in a variety of media outlets including, Radio Disney and Bay Area local television broadcast with Spencer Christian, on NBC’s “View from the Bay” and CBS, “Eye on the Bay”. Regularly contributed to a monthly column, ” The Family Kitchen” for Bay Area Parent Magazine; a subsidiary of Dominion Parenting Media is the nation’s largest publisher of regional parenting magazines.In 2015 Chef Gigi went on to study at the National Association of Sports Medicine to further understand the impact of movement and nutrition on our bodies.Chef Gigi keeps bees, chickens and grows her own food. Chef contributes monthly to Urban Gardeners Republic with amazing recipes for the garden. Be sure to follow her here.
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