Julia Child’s Ratatouille

Julia Child’s Ratatouille

Writing and cooking in: Pittsburgh, PA

Eggplant. Zucchini. Tomato. Onion. Peppers. The base of a true ratatouille. Yesterday I spent several happy hours making Julia Child’s version of ratatouille. Late July/early August is the time to make ratatouille. The eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes are abundant. You could make ratatouille the day the vegetables were picked.

There are many ways to make ratatouille. You can do it on the stovetop, in the oven, or even in the slow cooker. Most of these options are less complex than Julia Child’s recipe. They are probably also delicious. But there’s something special to me about spending an afternoon (or longer) making one of her more complicated dishes. The ratatouille is not particularly complicated, but it is time consuming. Each vegetable is prepared individually so that it will maintain its best qualities in the completed dish. Every ingredient in the ratatouille is essential.

A full day in the kitchen is a tonic for me. The peeling and slicing for hours with some background music is meditation.  And I needed it this weekend. Things have been going swimmingly here. I got a new job, Kevin and I got a kitten (eeeee!), and I’m hosting half a dozen guests next weekend. But in all the excitement it’s important to take time for oneself. And so, I decided to bypass the easy slow cooker ratatouille, the easy enough for a week night versions, and even the more complicated ones. I went straight to Julia because I knew she’d keep me busy for hours, especially if I lingered over the slicing as I tend to do when her recipes are before me.

Plus, I had a new Le Creuset pot to break in. (My first really good cooking pot, thanks Mom and Dad!) And how better to break in a French pot in an American kitchen than with recipes by a legendary American expert on French cooking?

I followed the recipe and cut the eggplant and zucchini, salted them and let them sit. I stood over the stove and cooked each beautiful vegetable individually. I snuck hot pieces of sauteed eggplant and al dente green pepper as I worked.

I made 2 alterations to the recipe. Not because I didn’t think it would be perfect, but because I once again got a ton of basil from the garden and a crookneck squash. I used the basil in place of parsley because I didn’t want to buy any and I added in the crookneck squash because I was just excited to have him! (And I wanted to show him respect because we sadly have a squash bug infestation at Eden Hall. We worked hard to correct it on Saturday, but we’ll see what happens. They already killed all the giant pumpkins. I had to help pull them up and put  them in plastic bags to try to keep more bugs from escaping further into the garden.)

But back to the ratatouille. Julia has done it again. This dish was definitely worth all the work. The eggplant and squashes are al dente with a few pieces slightly softer than that. The tomato nearly melts into the dish and flavors all the other veggies without overpowering them. This is my plan for lunch all week. And, I was pleased to have enough to fill a small container to freeze as well. This dish probably won’t be Kevin’s thing and you know what? That’s just as well because he’d probably have to fight me for it.

Whether it’s Julia’s or not, I beg you to try ratatouille this week. Now is the time for it. It won’t be any tastier than it is this month.

Today’s local ingredients:

Bloomfield Farmer’s Market: Eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, garlic, green pepper

Eden Hall Farm: Crookneck squash, basil

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