This week for Oahu Fresh, we’re headed to the French countryside to enjoy a classic late Summer meal, ratatouille.
Ratatouille is a simple dish, and features some of the produce most likely to be in abundance this time of year in the Northern latitudes: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and peppers. Of course, we’re lucky in Hawaii as we get four seasons of vegetables, but in other climates with more drastic seasonal changes, this dish is one of the last best ways to celebrate the bright flavors of summer.
It’s been years since I made a ratatouille, and so I did a little research about this simple dish. Turns out, ratatouille is an opportunity to show off my art skills too! I did my best to make it look gorgeous in my cute vintage Pyrex:
Ratatouille is great for lots of reasons: you can swap out the type and amount veggies depending on what you have, and it can be served with an array of foods, like pasta, atop pizza, or stirred into polenta (seen in the pictures below). It can also be thinned out and served as a chunky stew.
I really wanted to make this version of the ratatouille, as it’s so very pretty. However, if I were to make it again, I’d likely chop all the veggies smaller and cook atop the red sauce on a rimmed baking sheet. While the large rounds of veggies are pretty, and would work great for pizza, it was harder to eat with the polenta!
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup diced red onion
1 red bell pepper, diced finely
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cup blended or chopped fresh tomatoes (or 1, 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes)
½ cup fresh chopped basil (or 1 Tablespoon dried basil)
½ teaspoon of salt
1 medium-sized green zucchini, sliced into ⅙-inch rounds
1 medium-sized yellow zucchini (squash), sliced into ⅙-inch rounds
1 medium-sized Japanese eggplant, sliced into ⅙-inch rounds
Fresh basil for garnish
- In a large skillet, warm 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, and garlic, and cook until very soft–about 10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and salt, and stir to combine. Let cook for 10 more minutes, mashing the tomatoes as needed. Remove from heat, and stir in fresh basil, leaving some for garnish
- Once the tomato mixture has finished cooking, layer onto the bottom of the baking dish of choice.
- In a large bowl, toss the sliced veggies with 2 Tablespoons remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt.
- Atop the tomato sauce, layer alternating rows of veggies onto a baking sheet (eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini, then repeat). Alternatively, arrange all veggies into a spiral atop the sauce in a high-sided baking dish (the one I use in the video is about 6-inches across).
- Bake in the oven at 375º for 30-45 minutes; check for doneness and that veggies have softened. Total time will depend on how you chop the veggies. Zucchini should be soft and pliable, and eggplant should be softened considerably with a bit of toothsome bite.
- Remove from oven, and garnish with fresh basil.
- Serve atop polenta, pizza, or as a side dish with fresh bread.
Yield: 2-4 servings, depending on how you serve it
Bonus Recipe: Homemade Polenta
I realized when drafting this article that my site is missing one of my favorite foods: super creamy, dreamy polenta! Polenta is simply coarse-ground cornmeal that is cooked until totally soft (and it’s also known as grits). I like to cook my polenta with half water and half plant-based milk. You can stir in cheese or vegan cheese to taste (more is better!), and sometimes I’ll add my homemade coconut yogurt for flavor and texture. I sometimes cook onions or sun-dried tomatoes into my polenta, but plain is perfect too!
1 cups water
1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk
½ cup dry polenta (course-ground cornmeal)
½ teaspoon each black pepper and dried basil
1 cup shredded cheese or vegan cheese, or a few Tablespoons vegan yogurt
- Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium-sized skillet. Stir once boiling, and turn heat to low.
- Cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Polenta has the ability to absorb huge quanties of liquid, so if it seems dry add another 2-4 Tablespoons of water and let it continue cooking.
- The resulting polenta should be totally creamy and smooth, with no crunch.
- Add more salt to taste, and stir in cheese or yogurt, if using.
- Let cool before enjoying.
- Note that polenta will get much harder when cooled, so you may need to add more liquid when you warm up leftovers.
Yield: about 2 cups cooked polenta