Ratatouille- a classic French vegetable stew
Meatless Mondays are a good way to introduce your family to vegetarian cuisine and it’s also a good antidote to the American pastime of overindulging on the weekend. And a meatless meal once in a while is a money-saver, too. In fact, when my husband’s work takes him out-of-town for a few days, my girls and I go meatless and the grocery savings are substantial.
Today’s recipe, Ratatouille, features eggplant, which is not exactly in season right now, but it can be found. It’s a bit pricey at about $1.29 lb., but compared to meat protein, it’s a bargain (with the exception of chicken, and, let’s face it…aren’t we all getting tired of bird?)
A traditional ratatouille calls for sautéing each vegetable element separately, then combining for a final simmer, but who has time for that? II find that a great depth of flavor can be achieved by roasting all the vegetables together in a hot oven with a splash of olive oil.
This is a colorful, hearty main dish that even carnivorous types will enjoy. All that’s needed is a starchy side, which can be crusty artisan bread (always on the reduced bakery rack), pasta or rice. Ratatouille, like most peasant cuisine, is better the next day, and is pretty good served cold. A big pot will serve 6 with plenty of leftovers for less than $8.00.
1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise, then cut into quarters
8 plum tomatoes, quartered
2 large onions, sliced into rings
2 green peppers, cut into large chunks
1 large red pepper, large chunks
6-8 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 large can tomatoes (crushed or whole…whatever you like)
1- 2 cups dry white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Eggplant behaves better if you salt the slices well, put into a colander and weigh them down with a heavy object (I use a bowl a couple of sizes smaller than the colander, then put a few big cans of tomatoes in as weights). Let the eggplant drain for 30 minutes or so, then rinse and pat dry. You can certainly skip this step if you want, but I find the eggplant tends to get a bit mushified.
Toss all the vegetables together in about ¼ cup olive oil and roast in a hot (400 degree) oven, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Don’t overcook.
Add good white wine and 1 large can of crushed tomatoes and seasonings. Reduce oven to 350 and bake until vegetables are tender and sauce has reduced, about 30 minutes.
Save leftovers for a great panini!