It was a cold night and I wanted to make something interesting, healthy and hearty for dinner. I was tired of the run-of-the-mill Sambar, Rasam and Curry and I am sure the Mister was too. I brought my copy of Vegetarian Creations out and leafed it through to that one recipe I have been dying to try. I have read the recipe so many times in the past one month that I knew the page number and the ingredients by heart.
I first tasted Ratatouille in a Chennai-based Tapas bar called Zara. It is my most favorite place in the city to hang out with friends and the food in the bar is always so drool-worthy that it is safe to say that I used to frequent the place especially for their scrumptious platters. While the Cottage Cheese in Tomato Gravy is what I order most of the time, my secret favorite will always be Zara’s Ratatouille.
Well seasoned and cooked to perfection, their Ratatouille always tasted tangy, spicy and wholesome. At Zara, they always served it with some rice, a dinner roll and freshly made coleslaw. What a perfect platter, right? So I decided to recreate the platter at home and boy, oh boy, was it worth it!
Here is a little history: Ratatouille originated in France but has traveled the world multiple times. Many countries have their own version. Though basically a vegetarian dish (surprise, surprise!), it has meat versions and native spices versions now. Anyway, here is my modified version, adopted from Vegetarian Creations:
Onion 1 huge
Garlic 2 bulbs (minced)
Eggplant 1 huge
Zucchini 1 huge
Bell pepper (any color) 1 small
Tomatoes 2 medium-sized
Tomato Paste 16 Oz (450 ml approx.)
Fresh parsley 1/4 cup
Basil leaves 5
Dry Marjoram 1tsp (you can use oregano, which is from the same family of spices for a Mexican twist)
Freshly ground black pepper 1/2tsp
Grated Parmesan (or Cheddar if you cannot find Parmesan) 3 tbsp and more for garnish
Olive oil 4Tbsp
Cut the eggplant into small cubes and salt it in a colander. After 20 minutes, pat dry with a kitchen towel. Meanwhile, chop other vegetables separately and mix salt, pepper and the other seasonings together in a bowl. Heat a huge (and I mean HUGE) pan, add olive oil and fry the onion and garlic over medium heat until onion is tender. Now add eggplant and zucchini and cook for five minutes. Finally add bell pepper, tomato, tomato paste and season it with the mixture. Cover and cook for 30 minutes over medium-medium low heat (alternate the temperature). Take off the cover and cook for (ideally) 20 minutes. If the eggplant is still a little raw (as it probably will), don’t hesitate to cook more until it cooks completely and the liquid is fully absorbed.
As I said, Ratatouille can be made a million different ways. This is just one of them.