Don’t let their appearance fool you – this is a delicious meal, or side dish depending on how much you serve. I got the recipe from Bea at La Tartine Gourmande who is from France now living in the US with her husband (and very cute daughter). I felt rather international while eating this meal – I had ratatouille (French) with a nice crusty ciabatta (Italian), and some barbecued chicken (American). If any of you are country music fans I had this song stuck in my head while eating it.
This meal definitely wasn’t a 30 minute meal, but if you don’t mind chopping – I find it very calming – it goes together very quickly and then it just simmers by itself for about an hour to an hour and a half. I love the way that the different vegetables all lent the dish, but no one vegetable overwhelmed the other. When you see the ingredient list, you’re going to be like “ZOMG THAT’S SO MANY VEGETABLES” but they cook down and believe me when I say this stuff makes AMAZING left overs.
The only problem with the left overs is that vegetables soak up some of the liquid, but zapping it in the microwave seemed to release some of the liquids. Cause half the pleasure of this dish comes from soaking up the liquid with the ciabatta. Why ciabatta, why not French bread you ask? Well I like both, but I’d been craving ciabatta for a few days and I like the texture of cibatta better. Feel free to use French bread though!
I do, however, like dipping French bread into balsamic vinegar but not ciabatta, so go figure.
I only made a few changes to the recipe, I used dried herbs, added some extra herbs, left out the parsley and used Merlot instead of the sherry vinegar. I used the dried herbs because I’m getting tired of paying for herbs and I’ve been too lazy to get off my bum and plant my own herbs. Doh. I don’t like parsley so that got nixed, and I forgot to get some sherry vinegar and I had an open bottle of Merlot staring me in the face so that got dumped it. I, for whatever reason, thought I needed more than two tablepoons of sherry vinegar so I gave the pot a healthy glug of Merlot. It didn’t hurt the pot. I also couldn’t find Italian eggplants so I used the regular American ones which are larger so I only used 2, and I used some canned tomatoes cause the ones at the store weren’t exactly fresh off the vine.
The next time I make this, I might try reducing the amount of olive oil and I’m definitely adding shrimp, and maybe some carrots and potatoes. My parents and I also threw around other ideas like, adding sausage, adding rice, or using it as a pasta sauce.
Adapted from Bea from La Tartine Gourmande
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, basil, oregano (You may want more, after about 45 minutes of cooking, I added more..but I didn’t measure because I’m a bum)
2 large eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch dice (if you can find Italian eggplants that’s what the original recipe called for – get 4)
6 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 bell peppers (red/yellow/orange), cored and cut into strips
7 (about 2 pounds) tomatoes cored and cut into strips – or use canned! I did :)
2 bay leafs
2 tablespoons of Merlot (or sherry vinegar if you have it)
In a large pot, or duch oven (I used a large enameled one), heat up 3 tablespoons of olive oil. After it’s nice and shimmery, add the onion and cook until softened about 5 minutes. Stir often. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook it for 5 minutes. You aren’t cooking it all the way through – it’s gonna stew for over an hour. Remove everything from the pot and put it in a bowl.
Add another 3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat until shimmery. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Dump it into the bowl with the eggplants, onions, and garlic.
Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bell peppers, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and eggplant mixture back to the pot. Add the tomatoes, bay leafs, oregano, and basil. Cook at a simmer, uncovered for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the vegetables are as tender as you like.
At the 45 minute mark I tested for seasoning and thats when I added some salt and pepper and more oregano, thyme, and basil. Testing, it’s the perk of being the cook.