Harvesting too much produce from your garden is what we like to call a “positive problem.” So when we hear people kvetch about not knowing what to do with their overabundance, we just sigh, say a “thank you” to the weather gods for not drowning or burning plants before they could bear fruit, then do the one thing we do best: recipe hunt.
And few summer staples fit the bill better than ratatouille.
Versatile summer stew
Ratatouille is a vegetable stew from Provence that people love for its flexibility. Once cooked, it can be transferred to a decorative bowl and served hot, cold, or at room temp as a main dish, a side dish, or even as an appetizer with toasted bread or crackers, the way the French like it.
Traditional ratatouille features a certain set of vegetables that are sautéed in garlic and olive oil (diced eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, green peppers, onions, and garlic), but part of the fun is that you can ditch the usual suspects and combine any vegetables you want.
As terrific as it tastes, when you’re sick of eating ratatouille six ways to Sunday because you’re still using up those veggies, on the seventh day, use it as the base for a gratin.
Gratin refers to another well-known French dish that’s topped with a savory, crumbly mix of herbs, cheese, and breadcrumbs sautéed in butter, then warmed in the oven or under the broiler.
In this recipe, freshly made ratatouille (or leftovers) are transformed into a completely different meal thanks to the gratin topping. But be sure to use the right vessel: Gratin baking dishes are noticeably more shallow than others, allowing for a greater crunch-to-bite ratio. Typically, they’re pretty enough to go straight from oven to table, making this ratatouille gratin perfect for lunch, brunch, or dinner.
So the next time you have too much summer produce, either make this recipe through the ratatouille stage, or turn it into a gratin. You’ll squeeze two meals from one, which will free up time for doing more fun stuff … like picking more vegetables.
- 1 pound plum tomatoes
- 3 baby eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon herbes de Provence
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- pinch black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) — with convection on if you’re using a convection oven.
- In a roasting pan, combine 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and diced eggplant. Toss to coat. Roast the eggplant for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.
- Meanwhile, make the gratin: combine bread crumbs, cheese, fresh basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a small bowl. Mix together using a fork. Set aside.
- Thinly slice two tomatoes and set aside. Chop remaining tomatoes and set aside. In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, add onions, and cook for 5 minutes. Add bell peppers, sliced zucchini, garlic, herbes de Provence, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until juices are beginning to evaporate.
- Remove from heat. Add roasted eggplant, basil, salt, and pepper. At this point, you could serve the ratatouille on its own.
- Or you could go on to make Ratatouille Gratin: place the vegetables in a 13 × 9 × 3 inch heatproof dish. Press firmly using the back of a wooden spoon.
- Arrange sliced tomatoes on top, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with gratin.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) — with convection on if you’re using a convection oven.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until the cheese is melted and the top is golden and crispy.