I have a produce hoarding problem. Every time I visit the store or the farmers market, especially this time of year, all the fruits and veggies look so gorgeously delicious that I have to buy them all! Then I get home to my tiny, cluttered fridge and wonder: where am I going to put all this stuff? And what am I going to make with it??? If you're a fellow late summer produce hoarder, then this recipe will be your new best friend! Ratatouille is a classic Provencal dish of stewed, seasonal vegetables (no, it's not just a Pixar film). It's usually composed of a combination of eggplant, onion, peppers, tomatoes, squash and/or fennel and seasoned with lots of garlic and assorted herbs. The veggies cook down until they are meltingly tender and their flavor deeply concentrates. C'EST TRES BIEN! Traditionally, Ratatouille is made in a large pot on the stove over a couple of hours, and purists will even insist that you cook all the vegetables separately to begin with and then combine them at the end. I envy anyone who has the time and/or patience for all that stirring, watching and waiting! I don't have that luxury, so for this unorthodox ratatouille I've simplified the cooking process without sacrificing any of this classic dish's savory appeal. Heaps and heaps of seasonal vegetables get tossed with olive oil and a few standard aromatics, and then everything is roasted on two lined sheet pans (bonus points: cleanup is a breeze). While you do need to rotate the pans and stir the ingredients once or twice, this method is so much quicker and easier than making traditional ratatouille. Plus, the vegetables become beautifully caramelized in the oven- something I feel the stove top fails to do quite as well. When roasting vegetables, it's important to cut them into similar sizes so that they cook evenly (it looks prettier too). Feel free to vary the ingredients in this recipe if you can't find something at the store or have an aversion to one of the listed vegetables- f.e. if you can't find or don't like fennel, just add more zucchini or eggplant. I leave the eggplant and tomatoes unpeeled (a) because the skins don't bother me and (b) because I get lazy, but peel them by all means if you'd like! When you add all the raw veggies to the bowl (you’re gonna need your biggest one), it’s going to seem like an intimidating mountain of ingredients, but remember that they will all shrink down significantly in the oven!
This recipe makes the perfect amount: some for dinner tonight and extra for leftovers to use throughout the week. I love spooning the warm ratatouille on top of creamy polenta, spreading it on some crunchy toast, scrambling it into eggs, using it as a pizza toppling, tossing it with pasta, or simply serving it as a side dish. The options are endless with this tweaked classic! Bon appetit to all my veggie hoarders!!
prep time: 20 min. cook time: ~1 hr. 15 min. serves: makes about 6 cups
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 large bulb of fennel, cored and slived 1/4" thick
1 large zucchini squash, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
1 large yellow squash, cut into 1/4" thick rounds
1 large eggplant, (peeled if desired) and cut into 1-1/2" cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4" thick strips
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4" thick strips
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and gently smashed
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ripe tomatoes, cored, (peeled if desired) and cut into 1-1/2" cubes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 400° and place one rack in the upper third and one rack in the lower third. Line two large sheet pans with foil and place a sheet of parchment paper on top for easy cleanup! Put all of the prepared vegetables (onion-yellow bell pepper) in a very large bowl. Add the garlic, thyme, pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup olive oil to the veggies and toss with your hands to coat evenly. Divide the vegetables evenly between the two sheet pans, spreading them out to get them in as flat a layer as possible. Drizzle the tops with the extra olive oil. Place the sheet pans into the oven to roast on the top and bottom racks for 45 minutes, rotating the pans (switching from top to bottom) and stirring the veggies half way through.
After 45 minutes, remove the sheet pans from the oven and divide the tomatoes between them. Stir to evenly distribute the tomatoes. Place the sheet pans back into the oven for another 30-40 minutes, rotating the pans at the halfway point, or until the vegetables are caramelized, tender and saucy. Remove the ratatouille from the oven, transfer it to a bowl and stir in the basil. Check for seasoning and serve however you desire! *Will keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator up to 5 days. You can freeze as well, although the texture may vary slightly.