(Above: Tomatoes and Basil, Ready for Ratatouille.)
I discovered ratatouille last summer, not in some quaint out-of-the way Provencal restaurant, but in the pages of a half-dozen cookbooks in my own kitchen. It's a recipe somewhat like the alchemy of stock-making, where you need to accumulate enough stuff, in this case, summer's ripest produce, and turn it into gold.
Between the farmer's market and CSA box, I had enough eggplants, peppers, squash, tomatoes (heirloom and cherry), onions, and basil for a big pot of ratatouille. With the recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook as my guide (see last summer's post), salting and draining the eggplant, rather than roasting it, the dish turned out just fine. To cut down on the oil, I cooked the onion and squash in a small amount of water before adding them to the simmering tomato and pepper mixture. (A warning to mommies: it took for-bloody-ever to assemble and prepare all the produce, about two hours, because I was dealing with young children who were not in the proper ratatouille frame of mind.)
What makes mine Redneck Ratatouille is not that I add venison (sorry, a rather lame personal joke), but that I serve it with my version of polenta, using Dixie Mills yellow grits, cooked up with chicken broth and a tablespoon or two of butter. If I had Parmesan on hand, I would have stirred some in, too. The result? C'est magnifique! (even the cranky kids agreed!)