once upon a chef
– 1 large (1¼ lbs) eggplant, cut into ⅓-inch cubes – Salt – 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving – 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cut into ⅓-inch cubes – 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped – 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice – 5 large cloves garlic, chopped – 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes (1¾ lbs), cut into ⅓-inch cubes, with their juices – 1 tablespoon tomato paste – 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving – ¾ teaspoon sugar – ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional) – 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Hailing from Provence, a region in the south of France near the Mediterranean Sea, ratatouille is a bright and chunky summer vegetable stew, rich with olive oil and fragrant with garlic and herbs. Making it properly takes a bit of time, so I suggest cooking a big batch on a lazy day so you’ll have a tasty and colorful base for meals throughout the week. With a little imagination, there are endless ways to serve ratatouille.
Begin by heating 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan (no need to clean it). Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes.
Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.
Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper.
Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown. Next, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.
Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled.