The ratatouille is a very easy dish to cook for all your friends or family, a good way to eat vegetable and enjoyed it, here the best ratatouille recipe! Indeed, this recipe is a family one, coming from my grandma who had it from his own grandma… You will have a wide range of vegetables, giving you a lot of vitamins and fibers. This recipe is perfect for vegetarians, vegans and gluten intolerant. This is a healthy recipe full of flavor, coming from the South of France.
Vegetables disintegrate, mix… This is ratatouille.
This dish is a specialty of Provence and the former Comté de Nice. It’s one of the most emblematic recipes of the south of France and more particularly of Nice cuisine. Originally, the word “ratatouille” means a heterogeneous stew. Ratatouille, comes from the Occitan ratatolha with, etymologically, a link with the verb touiller: to stir to mix.
This dish where vegetables are simmered over a low heat for several hours in olive oil. A cooking time that allows to reveal all their flavors to the tasting, hot or cold, after adding garlic, onions, herbs and even spices.
It was consumed by the military and also in prisons, because it was easy and quick to cook. In 1846, ratatouille was defined in the French Provencal dictionary as “a soup for rats” and “a bad stew” .
In a way, ratatouille is a “concentrate” of the globalization of food, a dish whose components have geographical origins as distant as they are varied.
Ratatouille, a concentrate of the globalization
The vegetables essential to this recipe were imported into Provence only very late. Proof of this is that, coming from India, the eggplant only began to be cultivated and consumed during the Renaissance (15th-16th century).
In the same way for the tomato, which was introduced in Europe by the Spaniards at the beginning of the 16th century. Originally from South America, it was then considered as an ornamental plant and its fruit then called “golden apple” only began to be cultivated in the 18th century. Finally, the zucchini only arrived in France at the beginning of the 19th century. Today’s ratatouille is therefore relatively recent.
Eggplant was only introduced in the south of France much later, from the 17th century onwards, from Italy or Spain. At the time, people considered eggplant as a dangerous plant… therefore they reserved it for ornamental use, like the tomato! It is necessary to wait the XIX° century so that the eggplant begins to be, timidly, consumed in our country.
In the ratatouille, there are also tomatoes, zucchinis and peppers…
These fruiting vegetables are all three of American origin. This explains why ratatouille could not have existed before the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
The tomato: South American origin of the tomato
The tomato comes from South America, it was first cultivated in Mexico by the Aztecs, who called it “tomalt”. Europe did not know it until the 16th century when the Spanish and Portuguese brought it back after their discovery of America. The Italians called it “pomodoro” which translates as “golden apple” and made it mainly for sauces. From Italy, it reached Provence and gradually conquered France, which used it only for ornamental purposes, fearing its toxicity.
It is only during the XVIIIth century that tomatoes will really be eaten as a food). With the Revolution, Parisians will discover the tomato thanks to the people of Marseille. However, it will be necessary to wait the end of the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth century so that at the same time its consumption is democratized in France…
Let’s talk about the zucchini…
The zucchini is a type of squash picked before maturity. It is the Italians who first managed to select the types of zucchini that we eat. The French, on the other hand, have been eating them for a very short time.
As for the sweet bell pepper, it comes from chili peppers. But peppers that men have selected to make their burning flavor disappear.
And the olive oil?
Olives were pressed 6000 years ago in present-day Lebanon and on the island of Cyprus. Olive oil is therefore native to the Mediterranean … but oriental. It is the Greek settlers of Phocée, who introduced it to us. These Phocaeans, by founding the city of Marseille in 600 BC, are said to have taught the natives how to grow olives… at the same time as they taught them how to cultivate vines.
At least, the herbs of Provence with which we perfume the ratatouille are indeed Provençal, they…
Ratatouille combines a large volume of vegetables that have different cooking times. If you tried to throw them all in one pot at once, none of the vegetables would have a chance to caramelize, the eggplant would fall apart by the time the zucchini was tender, and your ratatouille would probably never reach its full promise.
– 3 tomatoes – 2 zucchinis -1 eggplant -1 sweet pepper (I prefer the red) -1 onions -2 garlic gloves -dry herbs like herbs de Provence: it’s a mix with rosemary, thyme.. -olive oil
-3 wide fried pans and 1 sauce pan -1 peeler -1 knife- a chopping board
How to make the best French ratatouille
-In the widest fried pan, add 1/4 cup of olive oil and hit it over medium plus
-Chop the onions and add it into this pan in order to fry them.
-Then slice the bell pepper into strips :
You need first to remove the top with a knife, in order to take off all the seeds from the bell pepper. And add it into the onions for frying them.
-Now add the crushed garlic that you will chop in small pieces.
-In the sauce pan, let boil the water. Take your tomatoes and on the bottom make an incision in a cross shape.
When the water is boiling, add the tomatoes for 5 min and remove them into the sink adding cold water. Now, you will be able to peel off all your tomatoes with your fingers. Cut it in pieces, removing the stern and add them in oil with the onions and sweet peppers in order to fry them. When you add the tomatoes, keep the juice from them.
Your preparation is moist, and you could continue to cook it over medium heat
-Season with salt and pepper, and then add the herbs such as thyme and bay leaf, around 2 tablespoons.
Now cook it over medium-minus, in order to keep it moist, you could add frequently a little of water, or you could cover with a lid your preparation. Most of the time I’m doing both.
-In the second wide fried pan, add a ¼ cup of olive oil, and turn on the stove on medium plus, fry the eggplants
Peel and cut the eggplant. When you peel off your eggplant, you need to make strips: you need to let peel on the eggplant.
Option: Disgorge the eggplant cubes with coarse salt for 1 hour, then rinse and dry them with absorbent paper.
If you have not made the eggplant sweat, you just have to cut it into thin slices and start frying it in another non-stick pan.
The eggplants frying will absorb very fast all the olive oil. Let them fried until they start to have a light brown.
-Peel and slice the zucchinis.
You will, like for the eggplant, make strips when you will peel them.
If you have an extra fried pan, fry the zucchinis
It will be better to cook them separately from the eggplants (adding 1/4 cup of olive oil) for the zucchinis if not, when the eggplants are ready remove them and let them aside in a separate plate. So you could use the pan to fry the zucchinis.
When the zucchinis start to get gold-brown, you could combine them with the eggplants and let them cook together for 5-10 min more.
-Then, you need to transfer all the eggplants and zucchinis into the onions-bell pepper and tomatoes fried pan.
-Add a small glass of water (½ cup) and let simmer for at least 3 hours at minimum. More you will cook it, the better it will be. You could even cook it for several days over low heat.
About the water: I use to adding the water little by little while my ratatouille is cooking over low heat in order to keep it moistly.
You can push the cooking longer to caramelize, comfit all your vegetables even more, in this case, if the mixture dries out too much don’t forget to add a little liquid which can be a glass of water, a left over of white wine or even sometimes I sometimes add a can of peeled tomatoes or even a can of tomatoes. I really like the taste of tomatoes, that’s why I sometimes add some.
The cooking must be done with a small amount of broth, that is to say that you have very small bubbles that appear in your assembly. Beware, the big bubbles send projections, it is not very good.
I love to eat ratatouille with fried eggs as a side dish.
I’ve already added just before serving a little goat cheese to melt it on top of the ratatouille and to serve it on toast, the impression is super chic. Of course the toast has to be French bread and the baguette is the best.
With grated Gruyère cheese slightly melted at the last minute on top of the ratatouille, it works too, but it’s much less Provencal.
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