Have fun with your family this long weekend on Family Day by cooking this classic, simple dish from southern France.
Ratatouille is rooted (quite literally) in simply French country living. The name ratatouille comes from the Occitan ‘ratatolha.’ ‘Rata’ is military slang for a mixture of vegetables, beans and fatty meats – quick and easy to make – the basis of any military canteen. Meanwhile ‘touiller’ is French for ‘toss’ or ‘stir.’ Put it altogether, and you have a simple, quick and delicious vegetarian meal for the whole family.
In fact, historically, it was considered by some to be a ‘peasant food’ due to the use of assorted, plentiful vegetables and simple ingredients. But the appeal of ratatouille lies in its pure simplicity. It can be a main dish or a side dish. Served hot or cold. Paired with fish, egg or served with bread. Cooked in the oven or fried on the stove. It also reheats well for leftovers.
Originating in Nice, this vegetable stewed dish is a very popular summer dish in the Mediterranean, but if we’re being honest, we’ve lost track of what time of the year it is anymore (pandemic brain is real).
A ‘traditional’ ratatouille is made with tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, zucchini, onions, olives and garlic. But the base nature of a ‘stew’ is in its flexibility, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to use up some of the stray vegetables in your fridge as well. Cabbage used to be the most common food in southern France in the Middle Ages, but less common in most cookbooks today. Feel free to take some artistic license – ratatouille is less a recipe as it is a process.
It’s an easy dish if you’re crunched for a time, but also a great meal to make with the kids. Let them wash and cut the vegetables for you, and encourage them to unleash their inner creative cook by layering them into a fun design. Have the kids watch the Disney classic before helping you out in the kitchen for some fun inspiration (and distraction), while you open a bottle of rosé. Close your eyes, imagine you’re in Provence, and then enjoy some quality time in the kitchen with your family.
Ready In: One hour Servings: 6
- Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C).
- Slice eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. Layer in a casserole dish with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and thyme. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes.
- Dice onions, garlic and tomatoes. Fry on stovetop with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring occasionally. Add finely chopped black olives if desired.
- Remove casserole dish and add the fried onion, garlic and tomatoes on top of the baked veggies. Cook for an additional 10-15 until the vegetables are soft.
- Remove from oven and add salt and pepper to taste.
Pro tip: Make sure each of your vegetables are cooked thoroughly. Keep an eye on your eggplant and zucchini. Some traditionalists insist you cook each vegetable separately to ensure proper attention is given to each veggie.
Bon appétit! What are your plans for the long weekend?