Quail Ridge Sous Chef Dan Ramos shares Ratatouille!
South Florida’s winter vegetable growing season starts in October, ends in May and grows some of the most fantastic fruits and vegetables right in our back yard. With the all the Farmer Markets in full swing it’s easy to find delicious local produce. For instance eggplant is certainly abundant this time of the year. From all shapes to a variety of colors, you’ll find them from white to every shade of purple you can imagine. Tomatoes are another great option whether they are grown organically, hydroponically or conventionally in soil. Ripe and ready, you’ll find all kinds of tomatoes with interesting names like Green Zebra, Brandy Wine, & Cherokee. Of course there’s the pepper with names like Sweet Bell, Mini Sweet, Shisito, Cubanelle, & Sweet Banana that are all delicious on their own. Lastly, are the lonely zucchini and yellow squash. They really never get much respect, but cooked together with sautéed sweet peppers, caramelized eggplant, & sun ripened tomatoes, they become part of something really special. A classic French dish from the Province region known as ratatouille. Ratatouille is a humble side dish made with the season’s bounty of fresh vegetables that can transform any chicken, fish, or lamb dish into something from the French country side. The recipe for a ratatouille has been recreated over a thousand times. Some chefs slice the vegetables, some dice, some chefs used canned tomatoes, and some prefer to use fresh ripe tomatoes. In Julia Child’s famous cook book she teaches that each vegetable must be cooked separately to the perfect doneness, then they can be cooked together and briefly simmered. I’d like to give you a recipe that I’ve used over the years and it’s from the Julia theory of ratatouille.
2 Tbls Olive oil, split
2 cups Eggplant, medium diced
4 clove Garlic, chopped
½ cup Yellow onion, medium diced
½ cup Red bell pepper, medium diced
1 cup Zucchini, medium diced
2 cups Ripe tomato, peeled, seeded & diced
2 Tbls Fresh oregano, lightly chopped
6 leaves Fresh basil, torn into pieces by hand
Salt and black pepper
Toss the eggplant with a teaspoon of salt to draw out moisture and set in a colander to drain for 1 hour. After the hour lay a clean paper towel over the eggplant in the colander and gently press out moisture from the eggplant. Remove from colander and let dry on another clean paper towel until ready to cook.
In a wide bottom pot over medium high heat add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the eggplant to the hot oil and cook until the eggplant is browned. Once eggplant is cooked remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan on medium heat add the other tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic. Sauté the garlic to light brown color, add the onions and cook until translucent.
Then add the peppers to the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the squash to the pan and cook for 3 more minutes. Then stir in the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Now add the cooked eggplant and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the herbs, salt and pepper and cook until all the vegetables are soft. Serve hot as a side or cold on grilled bread.