Sunday, September 13, 2009

Julia Child's Ratatouille

I, dear readers, like many other home cooks, completely idolize Julia Child. I mean, what American cook wouldn't want to be her?! Learning to cook in France, bringing a new cuisine to home cooks in America, the whole shebang - she's pretty much just the best.

Not surprisingly, I, like many other food bloggers, went to see Julie & Julia, the recent film about a blogger who worked her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking - all in one year. In fact, every time the trailer for this film would come on the television, my cute hubby would say, "Wow, that is so you. We've got to see that!"

Well, the movie was quite nice - even the hubs enjoyed it. So when we ended up with a bunch of random veggies in the fridge (thanks to our wonderful CSA farm), I thought it was a great idea to use them up by making a classic French-Provençal dish: ratatouille. And of course, whose recipe would I use but Julia's!?

Well, I have to admit that Julia was right when she said that ratatouille "is not one of the quickest dishes to make." Although a bit time-intensive, the techniques are not difficult, and the results completely justify the effort. It's hard to imagine a dish that is this simple in its seasonings and ingredients, and yet this rich in its layers and layers of flavor.

Without further ado, let me give you the recipe, in the words of Julia Child herself. . .

Julia Child's Ratatouille
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 pound eggplant
1 pound zucchini
A 3-quart, porcelain or stainless-steel mixing bowl
1 teaspoon salt

A 10- to 12-inch enameled skillet
4 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed

1/2 pound (about 1 1/2 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, if necessary
2 cloves mashed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced (makes 1 1/2 cups pulp)
Salt and pepper

A 2 1/2 quart fireproof casserole about 2 1/2 inches deep
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper

Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. I actually just sliced it in half lengthwise and then cut it into half-moons.

Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. I cut mine into medallions because we had a really long, skinny one!

Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.

One layer at a time, saute the eggplant and then the zucchini in hot olive oil in the skillet for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish. I found it helpful to add a bit more olive oil with each batch to get them nice and golden brown.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.

Slice the tomato pulp into 3/8-inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated. I tipped the skillet and used a spoon instead of a baster, and it worked very well.

Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley. I went with one of my trusty Le Creuset pieces.

Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.

Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time or serve cold. Yields 6-8 servings.


Erin said...

This looks so good! I love all the veggies in one dish!

BMK said...

I really enjoyed the movie too! This dish looks fabulous and healthy!


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