Ratatouille is the gustatory embodiment of everything that I believe cooking should be. I love that it combines all the flavors of a single season in one colorful stew. I love that it's simple and healthy. But most of all, I love the way four innocuous veggies can come together and form something absolutely magical. It's also one of those dishes that has no recipe and depending who you ask, they'll give you a different rendition and tell you that theirs is the proper way to make it.
Just because there's no official recipe doesn't mean it can't be made wrong though. I've seen it show up all too often in buffet lines as an insipid watery mush or a crunchy medley of flavorless raw veggies. So what should ratatouille taste like you ask? A good ratatouille should have a glossy, appetizing sheen with a bright, sweet flavor that bursts with umami with each juicy bite.
You could get fancy and arrange mandolined slices like Remy in in the eponymous movie, but I love the simplicity of just tossing a bunch of chopped veggies into a pot and stirring. Touiller means "to toss" after all.
I took the French classic and gave it an Indian spin with ginger, garam masala and cilantro taking the place of basil, thyme and parsley. Somewhere between a Baingan Bharta and a ratatouille, I imagine I'll have purists from both camps flinging rotten tomatoes at me.
If you're still reading, enjoy this with some naan, paratha, or a crusty baguette. It can be served as a vegetarian main course, but I like serving it as a side for a meat dish.
And if I've completely lost you with this whimsical version, you can find my traditional Provençal recipe here.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 5 cloves
- 4 large cloves garlic (grated)
- 1 inch knob ginger (grated)
- 2 small onions (diced)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt (halve if using regular salt)
- 1 - 2 serrano chilies seeded and minced
- 1 red bell pepper (chopped)
- 2 small zucchini (cubed)
- 1 small eggplant (cut into ½" cubes)
- 4 medium tomatoes (chopped)
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat until hot, then add the cumin, black mustard, and cloves. Fry the spices until they start to pop (be careful, the hot oil will spatter).
- When the spices are popping and fragrant, add the garlic and ginger, stir frying until very fragrant (about 1 minute).
- Add the onions, serrano chilies, and salt and fry over medium heat until the are translucent and starting to turn brown (20-30 minutes).
- Add the bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, garam masala and turmeric and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to medium low, cover and cook for 20 minutes covered.
- Temove the lid and cook for another 10 minutes uncovered, or until the mixture is thickend to the texture you want.