Okay, so this is my version of Thomas Keller’s recipe-oops, I mean Remy’s recipe. I have to say that I think that this is one of my best-looking and most delicious dinners. So in my recipe, you will notice that it is perhaps not as refined and pure as the original. The piperade is not as smooth as I tend to like the consistency of thinly sliced peppers.
I also used a couple more spices. Not too much to drown the taste of the vegetables, but just enough to offer an additional layer of flavour. I Just love garlic and chili, and any chance I have to use these two ingredients together, will be exploited. So I added them into this recipe.
Instead of adding the squash into the layers of vegetables, I used the squash as the “plate” onto which the layered vegetables were placed. Lastly, instead of baking the ratatouille into a single large skillet, I made 4 individual ones, baked in little casserole dishes.
Ratatouille is one of those dishes that I never used to like as a child. It was not really the Ratatouille but really the eggplant!
I just could not stand eggplant or anything that resembled it, touched it or existed at any point of time near it! ( picking out pieces of eggplant in any dish was simply not going to do it for me!). Just exactly when I made the transition from an eggplant-hater to a lover of eggplant, I can clearly recall. It was about 15 years ago when I was offered some eggplant at a small gathering. I hardly knew the host, and my stomach was growling. I was convinced that she heard the growls. So, I had no choice but to smile as if eager to try and dared not to refuse.
What appeared before me was not at all the eggplant I had in mind at all. This was not that ugly looking (when overcooked), bitter-tasting, no value what-so-ever vegetable I had so long disregarded. This eggplant became my turning point! This eggplant was cut into long thin slices, drizzled with olive oil, grilled and then preserved in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and rosemary. It was served on finger size warm pieces of freshly toasted focaccia.
I took my first bite, and then a second and then it was done. I must have eaten this up so quickly, as my host was still in the process of handing me my napkin. The smell simply overcame me and I had to eat it. When I looked up and noticed my host gazing at me, I gave an embarrassed smile, followed by a very sincere and eager smile saying: I want more now!!! And with that, I was handed 5 more of those delights onto my plate with the napkin.
I noticed a slight sweetness on the tongue, combined with but a mere scent of garlic, hint of rosemary all sealed in the olive oil.
The soft texture of the eggplant combined with the crusty warm focaccia was a wonderful combination and one which has become a regular in my culinary repertoire .
So, enough said….have fun with this version of an eggplant recipe!
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed and halved
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed and halved
- 1 orange bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed and halved
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 cup of slices of diced onion
- 4 medium sized tomatoes, thinly sliced.
- 3 sprig fresh thyme removed from stalks
- 2 tablespoons of freshly cut sprig flat-leaf parsley
- some salt to taste
- 1 medium zucchini (4 to 5 ounces) sliced in 1/16-inch-thick rounds
- 1 eggplant (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 1/16-inch-thick rounds
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon of Mustard
- A mixture of dash of thyme, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, and basil
- A tiny bit of dried crushed red chilli peppers
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To make the piperade, preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper and put the pepper halves on the baking sheet, cut side down.
- Roast until the skins are dark, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the peppers from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 275 F. Peel the peppers and discard the skins.
- Cut the peppers into thin slices and put them aside.
- In medium skillet over low heat, combine oil, garlic and onion and sauté until very soft for about 5 minutes.
- Add the sliced tomatoes, the thyme, and parsley.
- Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook until very soft and little liquid remains, about 10 minutes. Do not brown.
- Add the sliced peppers and simmer to soften them and season to taste with salt.
- Reserve a tablespoon of the mixture, then spread the remainder over the bottom of each casserole dish.
- Create the ratatouille layers by arranging the sliced vegetables (eggplant and zucchini) in a spiral-overlapping manner, starting with the outside circle around the casserole dish and ending in the centre.
- Then spread this vegetable layer with a thin coating of the piperade, and then cover this with another vegetable layer, and repeat the process until the casserole is filled (I did three layers).
- Now prepare the “closing seal” which will be poured over the layers by mixing the garlic, oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Drizzle this over vegetables. Cover each casserole with foil to seal well.
- Bake until the vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 1 hour. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. (Lightly cover with foil if it starts to brown.). If there is excess liquid in pan, place it over medium heat on stove until reduced. (At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat in 350 F oven until warm.)
- To create the final touch: the vinaigrette, whisk together the reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, mustard, all of the herbs and spices, and salt and pepper to taste. When ready to serve, turn the casserole upside down onto a plate and drizzle the vinaigrette around plate and you are ready to go!