In the Pacific Northwest, we grow a lot of zucchini. It’s one of the vegetables that’s easy to grow in our climate. With its abundance, it seems like everyone is trying to give it away. During the summer, people are constantly asking their friends for new inventive recipes for zucchini. When one of my neighbors gave me some zucchini and yellow squash, I thought about trying my hand again at Ratatouille. I’ve done it before in the famous “Disney” style with the layers and layers of pretty vegetable rounds. It’s very impressive, but overall it wasn’t a knock out dish for me. I figure if you’re going to go to all the trouble of making Ratatouille, it might as well taste amazing. Because, yes – IT IS A LOT OF WORK! However, I do think that I hit on the right method. I am not claiming that no one has ever done Ratatouille this way, but I think I did a good job preparing all these beautiful colored vegetables and elevating their taste.
I picked up some eggplant at the local Farmer’s Market in Sammamish. I prefer the smaller eggplant- it packs in the flavor and tends to be less mushy. I also got an assortment of other traditional Ratatouille vegetables from the market. After I rounded up the best selection of ingredients, I started to review different ways of preparing Ratatouille. I was inspired by the NY Times recipe which is the traditional stew method.
Next, I gathered some Rosemary and Thyme from my garden.
You’ll need a hearty onion; I used a Walla Walla Sweet because it has great flavor. Other must haves are garlic, red pepper, bay leaf, oregano and some tomatoes.
Look at these Heirloom tomatoes I found! So beautiful.
After gathering ingredients, you’ll first work on your sauce. Boil some water and toss in the tomatoes for 10 seconds and no more.
Pull them out and put immediately into an ice water bath to cool off.
Now the skins will just peel off like magic!
All peeled and ready to go!
Mush out the seeds with your hands over a sieve, letting the juices fall into the bowl below.
Dice up the flesh of the tomatoes and keep those juices!
Put the tomatoes, the reserved juices, one clove of minced garlic, the oregano and bay leaf in a bowl. Mix and let marinate on the counter while you prep the veggies for grilling.
Slice your eggplant into long sticks like this and salt them. This will pull out the moisture and help keep the eggplant from getting so mushy!
Cover with paper towels to draw out the moisture.
See how the salt just pulls the water right out?
Cut the rest of the veggies into long strips. Cut the onion into chucks.
I made trays for my veggies out of tin foil and perforated the tray with a knife. Place the vegetables on separate trays, add some of the Thyme and Rosemary sprigs onto each tray. Put the three other cloves of garlic in with the onions. Toss each group of vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
I grilled the zucchini and squash directly on the grill. Look at those beautiful grill marks!
The eggplant and the red pepper, grilling and soaking in all that smoky flavor.
After grilling all the veggies, dice them all up and toss with your tomato sauce in a cast iron dutch oven pot. Of course, at this point you don’t have to use the grill, you can put in a regular stockpot and finish off on your stove.
But, honestly, who doesn’t love a pot of stew cooking on the charcoal grill soaking in that flavor!?
Cast iron dutch oven pot
- 4 large garlic cloves
- 1 large onion
- 3 small zucchini
- 3 small yellow summer squash
- 4 small eggplant
- 2 sweet red peppers
- 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
- About 1 cup olive oil, more as needed
- 4 medium heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes
- 2 small bay leaves, ripped in half
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, more as needed
- Cracked pepper
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place tomatoes in water pot for 10 seconds. Pull out the tomatoes with a slotted spoon and immediately place them into an ice water bath, let cool. Using a paring knife, pull the skin off the tomatoes. Set a sieve over a bowl. Mush out the seeds with your hands into the sieve, letting the juices drain into the bowl. Discard the seeds. Dice the tomatoes and combine in the bowl with the juices.
Mince one clove of garlic, add to the tomato bowl along with the bay leaves, oregano and a large pinch of salt. Stir together and let sit while you prep the vegetables.
Slice your eggplant into 1/4 inch spears. Lay them on a baking sheet and salt them well. The salt will pull out the moisture from the eggplant. Cover with paper towels and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Smash and peel the remaining 3 cloves of garlic.
Cut zucchini and yellow summer squash into 1/4 inch spears. Then, seed the red pepper and cut lengthwise to about 1/4 inch strips. Lastly, cut the onion in half and in half again and then into 1/2 inch chunks.
Make 3 tin perforated tin foil trays or use 3 square grill vegetable pans.
Wipe the excess salt off the eggplant.
Place eggplant, onion and red pepper on tin trays and toss each individual vegetable with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, coating well. Cooking each vegetable separately ensures that that they are not overcooked, as they all have varied cooking times.
Toss the zucchini and yellow squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a separate bowl.
Crack salt and pepper over all the vegetables very well.
Grill the zucchini directly on the grill until just tender, about 5-10 minutes.
Take turns with the veggies, placing the trays on the grill and cook until just tender, don’t over cook. It will take about 15 minutes for the onions and 10-15 minutes for the red pepper or until skin shrivels. Give the eggplant 5-10 minutes. Basically, grill until they are all tender and have soaked up the smoky charcoal flavors.
Remove the vegetables from the grill when they are ready and dice. Place in the dutch oven or stockpot (if you plan on using the stove).
Toss the whole thing with the tomato sauce and finish cooking on the grill, simmering about 15 more minutes. If using the stovetop, you might need 20 minutes of simmering on low heat.
Serve in bowls with crusty bread and a side salad.
P.S. Save your leftovers and the next day make an appetizer tray for lunch. Snofrisk spreadable goat/cow cream cheese paired with the ratatouille is quite tasty.
Make some Crostini with your leftover bread, spread on the cheese and dollop on the cold ratatouille. Trust me, your mouth will thank me. It is definitely better the next day.