Ratatouille ラタトゥユ

japanese cake

Izakaya and bar food tend to be more often meat than vegetables (especially Western bar food) and deep fried. We try to eat more vegetables if we can and one of the easiest vegetable dishes I can make to eat during the week, either warm or cold, is my version of ratatouille. I am sure my version is not the authentic true Provençal dish but we like it and it is very versatile. It goes well with red wines (particularly lighter reds such as Rhone, Croze-Hermitage etc) but also goes with cold sake as well.

I sometimes cut all the vegetables rather small and sometime a bit larger, but never very chunky. The vegetables I usually use are zucchini, yellow squash, egg plant, tomato (canned plum tomatoes) with onion and garlic. My wife does not like green or red peppers in Ratatouille so I do not use them. I do not add any liquid but the amount of liquid that exudes from the vegetables is amazing. I have to make a conscious effort to reduce the liquid. I also use finely minced anchovy (canned, salted and preserved in olive oil). I also like the vegetables well cooked and soft–not too crunchy. The amount of vegetables is arbitrary but I make a relatively large batch as seen below because they also reduce in size as they cook.

I finely chop red onion (one medium) and garlic (3 fat cloves). I skin and cut egg plant (1 Italian, large) into small cubes. I cut half moon slices of zucchini (3 medium) and yellow squash (2 medium). I first saute onion in olive oil (2-3 tbs) on a medium flame until the onion become soft and semi-transparent, add the garlic and saute for another 3-4 minutes. I, then, add the eggplant and saute for 3 more minutes. Finally, I add zucchini and yellow squash and mix well. I add a small amount of salt to encourage the moisture to come out of the vegetables and turn down the heat. I add canned whole plum tomato (8oz can), either crushed by hand or cut up leaving the excess liquid in the can but I do not drain the tomatoes.

I add dried oregano (1/2 tsp), basil (1/2 tsp), (or sometimes thyme) and whole bay leaves (3) and put on the lid. I simmer for 20-30 minutes. After the liquid comes out, I put the lid askew and turn up the heat a bit to let the liquid evaporate. Instead of salt,  I use a small can of anchovy fillets finely cut up. The anchovies are very salty, so I start adding the anchovy in stages, tasting until desired saltiness is attained. I am not sure where I got this idea but I must have gotten it  from one of the recipes I read. It certainly adds a more complex “je ne sais quoi” quality to the dish.

I try to remove all 3 bay leaves since they could be a hazard if swallowed by the unsuspecting. This dish is good, warm or cold. Just simply prepared like this, the vegetables end up surprisingly sweet. The is a perfect side for pork, lamb or chicken dishes.

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