Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ratatouille, my way

Ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes to prepare with fresh produce from the farmer's market. Every vegetable is patiently prepared on it's own, allowing each to shine independently even though the end result is a baked combination of them all.
I find that most ratatouilles go wrong when precooking the vegetables. You don't want to fully cook them through unless you want the end product to result in a bowl of mush. Lightly sauteing and searing before baking is the way to go for a great dish of summer vegetables that still hold their own.
Preparing it is the easy part. While patience and time might not be on your side, it is well worth it in the end. I am a firm believer of the phrase "good food takes time" and this dish is no exception.
I am proud to call this version my very own in every way, from preparation to taste and presentation. This is how I love my ratatouille, I hope you will too.

Baby eggplant, purple bell peppers, spring onions, pattypan squash, blue potatoes and a fresh heirloom basil sauce, cooked individually then baked together for a summer flavor explosion in your mouth!

2 small Asian eggplants or 1 large regular, 1/4" slice
sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 tbl fresh thyme leaves, divided
2 cups 1/4" sliced blue potatoes or yukon golds
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 purple or red bell peppers, 1/2" pieces
1 large spring onion, 1/4" slices
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine, divided
2 small pattypan squash or zucchini, 1/4" slice
3 heirloom or hothouse tomatoes, roughly chopped into small bits
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

Preheat oven to 350.
Place the eggplant in a colander with 1 tsp of salt and let sit to drain of excess moisture for 15 minutes. Pat dry.
In a large saute pan, heat 2 tbl of oil and saute the eggplant with a pinch of pepper and fresh thyme over medium-high heat for 6 minutes, so both sides have seared. Remove eggplant from the pan and add 2 tbl of oil.
Add the potatoes and season with red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook for 6 minutes until about 2/3rds of the way cooked and seared on the outside. Remove from the pan and add 1 tbl of oil.
Add the bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes then remove.
Add an 1 tbl of oil to the pan and add the onions, oregano, 2 tbl of white wine, salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes until they just start to soften.
Remove from the pan and add 1 tbl of oil and the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 4 minutes.
Remove from the pan and add the tomatoes and garlic. Add 2 tbl of white wine and scrape up all of the bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and toss in the basil.
Get ready to assemble!
Grease a 9" cake pan with canola spray.
Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom and line with potatoes. Next add a layer of bell peppers then add the onions on top. Top the eggplant in a layer next then the squash. Use a plate or a piece of foil to press down on the vegetables and compact everything together. Top with the remaining sauce and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 more minutes.
Let cool for 10 minutes before serving or make a day ahead. It tastes even better the next day and can be cut into perfect portions.

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