“Anyone can cook!”
While I love Fall and the crisp air, bright leaves, and football that come with it, the end of summer is still a little sad. No more outdoor farmer’s market and fewer bright colored fruits and veggies is a bummer! My solution to this problem? Buy all the fresh bright produce in sight. This dish arose partly from that sentiment–I wanted to make something for dinner that used as many pretty, colorful vegetables as possible. (The other part is that my husband and I love the movie Ratatouille… :)) This dish isn’t tricky, and it’s delicious! The essential ingredients are below:
All the pretty colors?! Couldn’t resist them. The first step of this recipe involves slicing the veggies very thinly. This is easiest with a mandoline, but can also be done (carefully) with a good sharp knife. I used the mandoline on all these vegetables, and still have all my digits–success!
One of the parts that makes this so yummy is that the sliced veggies take a tomato/garlic/onion/olive oil bath (but not like this) while they bake. The tomato and flavorings are in the bottom of the baking dish, so when the veggies are layered on top, they soak in all that flavor while all the ingredients cook together. Being Italian, pretty much anything in tomato/garlic/onion/olive oil is a win in my book, particularly when fresh herbs are involved.
Part of what makes ratatouille so fun is the pretty way it’s arranged. While mine is nowhere near perfect, I find that it works well to sort of spiral in from the outside, layering the slices in a pattern with each one overlapping the one below. I stuck the bell pepper in around the edges, and then put some small pieces in the center–that seemed kind of fun and added some more color. Anything works though!
The veggies are topped with herbs and a bit of olive oil, and into the oven it goes. Once everything is bubbling together and smelling amazing, it’s all set!
Since it was dinnertime (and I have a husband who eats like it’s his job, which is super fun for someone who loves to cook) for a little more substance, I served this over Israeli couscous, which is a toasted pasta that looks like tiny little balls or beads and is cooked much like regular couscous or quinoa. It’s so delicious, and has a great chewy texture. If you toast it in a bit of olive oil so it gets slightly golden brown before cooking it in liquid, it has a super yummy nutty taste that really makes it best. I also like to top this dish with some herbed goat cheese or feta. Both are quite good with it, especially if added when the veggies are hot so that the cheese gets all melty and fabulous. And lastly, because I couldn’t resist it at the farmer’s market, I added a side of a piece of Italian herb focaccia bread. Slightly toasted, this sops up any extra tomato-y juices at the end. Perfect.
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 eggplant (I used a Japanese eggplant, which is longer and skinner; this worked great because it was similar in circumference to the zucchini and squash)
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 bell pepper
- Fresh herbs (I used basil, oregano, and rosemary, but whatever you like along those lines would good)
- Israeli couscous for serving, optional (a small pasta would also probably work well)
- Feta or herbed goat cheese for serving, optional
- Toasted focaccia or other flavorful bread for serving, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Pour tomato puree into bottom of a medium, shallow baking dish (oval suits the “spiral” design well, but any type will work; mine was about 12 inches across, and I had extra veggies). Stir in the minced garlic, chopped onion, 1 T olive oil, and salt/pepper.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and bell pepper. Remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper.
Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and squash into very thin (1/16 – 1/8 in.) slices using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Slice/dice the bell pepper into some thin slices and some small pieces.
In the baking dish and on top of the tomato sauce, arrange the veggies in a spiral pattern, starting from the outside. Overlap the slices and alternate the veggies, adding the slices of bell pepper at intervals and the diced pepper into the center.
Drizzle 1 T olive oil and sprinkle the fresh herbs over the veggies. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Cover the dish very loosely with a piece of foil or parchment paper (really, just lay it on top).
Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until veggies are cooked but not looking too limp or soggy. They won’t be brown, and the tomato sauce should be bubbly.
Optional couscous: If you want to serve this with the Israeli couscous, I’d recommend toasting it first. Heat some olive oil (approximately 1 T for a standard 15oz box of couscous) over medium heat in a wide pan. Add the couscous to the pan and toast, tossing or stirring the couscous every once in a while. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and it’s done when it gets a bit golden and smells nutty. (It usually takes about 10 minutes for me.) Then just cook the couscous according to the package directions.
Serve the ratatouille over the couscous, with the cheese on top (added while the veggies are nice and hot) and the toasted bread on the side.
Enjoy, then watch Ratatouille 🙂