Do I need to apologize to France for putting meat in their shining star of all vegetarian dishes?
Maybe, but I’m not gonna. Ratatouille is basically the ultimate summer stew, making great use of all that summer veg that is ripe, wonderful and ubiquitous during the summer time. And, if you manage to watch your use of olive oil, it’s extremely good for you. Yes, even if you put a little sausage in it. (But maybe not if you also top it with cheese. Cheese you say? Yes, I topped the leftovers with really really melty Fontina cheese making this so very not vegan or vegetarian and at the point you add cheese it resembles this classic French dish less and less, but it was damn good.)
At any rate, ratatouille is the kind of weekend meal that keeps giving because generally it makes a lot, and if you go to all the trouble it should make a lot. You can use the leftovers in a number of ways: mixed with pasta, put in the bottom of a muffin tin and topped with an egg for breakfast, spread on toast for a little tartine or even just frozen for later use. Of course, we don’t really know very many leftovers at our house so we didn’t actually have enough left over to do any of these things with, but I digress.
The trick to this recipe, and what makes it such a long process, is that the veggies pretty much need to be sautéed individually. As you’re cooking, be careful not to burn the bottom of the pan. A nice brown coating will start to develop, and if it looks like it’s starting to burn deglaze it with a little water. The nice part about the constant flow of setting aside the cooked veg and adding new ones is that if you do burn the bottom of the pan accidentally, you can deglaze it after the veggies have been removed (but before adding the new ones) and throw the burned part away entirely. Trust me. I speak from experience.
Once everything is put back in the pot to simmer, you can kind of decide how far you want it to go. If you like the veggies to be a little bigger and more, um, separate (for lack of a better word), then only simmer it for about a half hour. If you want the veggies to break down into a silkier stew then let it go longer. I was a smidge worried that the sausage would kind of ruin that smooth texture, but actually I think the fat from the sausage added to it.
- 1/2lb sausage (Italian or anything mild flavored)
- 2 Large eggplant (chopped into bite sized pieces)
- 2 onions (diced)
- 2 Large red bell peppers (chopped into bite sized pieces)
- 6 cloves garlic (minced)
- 3 zucchini (or about 1 1/2 pounds of other squash, chopped into bite sized pieces)
- 3 Large tomatoes (chopped into bite sized pieces)
- 3 sprigs fresh time (plucked)
- 3 sprigs fresh marjoram (plucked, plus more for garnish)
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (as needed for bottom of pan)
- fresh basil (snipped, for garnish)
|Sprinkle the diced eggplant with salt, put in a colander and let it sit over a bowl or the sink for about 20 minutes. Heat a large pot or large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sausage (casings removed) and cook until the fat has rendered out, breaking apart as it cooks so the pieces are very small and loose. Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula to a large bowl. Add the onions with a heavy pinch of salt and pepper and cook until translucent and starting to caramelize, about 10-15 minutes. If the bottom starts to burn add a little water to deglaze and/or cover. Then add the red bell peppers and cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Remove everything to the bowl with the sausage. If there is a coating on the bottom, deglaze the pan again and pour over the large bowl.
|Add about 2 teaspoons olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Add the squash with a pinch of salt and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse the eggplant and press down with you hands into the colander to squeeze out as much water as possible. When the squash is finished, remove to the large bowl with the other cooked ingredients. Add another 2 teaspoons or so of olive oil and add the eggplant. Cook until lightly browned and reduced in size, about 10 minutes. Remove to the large bowl with the other cooked ingredients. Add another 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the bottom of the pot and add the tomatoes. As the juice from the tomatoes deglazes the pan be sure to scrape up the lovely brown bits. Add the herbs, some more salt and pepper, and once the tomatoes have cooked down a little bit (about 5-ish minutes) add the large bowl of the other cooked ingredients, give everything a big stir to incorporate it, and let it simmer for 30-90 minutes. Serve with crusty bread and fresh snipped herbs.
Non game substitution: You can use any sausage, just make sure you’re using sausage that is pretty mildly flavored and keep in mind the flavorings of the stew. Currywurst would totally screw this up.
Vegetarian substitution: Yeah, just leave the meat out. Obvi.