A slow-simmered dish like ratatouille makes perfect use of summer tomatoes and other fresh vegetables.
With August’s arrival comes the abundance of fresh tomatoes. A slow-simmered dish like ratatouille is a delicious use of right-off-the-vine tomatoes and should be part of your summer’s repertoire.
Ratatouille, which comes from the French word "touiller,” meaning “to toss,” is literally a tossing in a pot of summer vegetables and simmering them in olive oil: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and seasoned with fresh garlic, basil, and perhaps a bay leaf. There are many varieties of ratatouille. There is the Disney version, made popular by the Pixar film “Ratatouille”; Julia Child sautées the vegetables separately; Alice Waters creates a “basil bouquet” bound with kitchen twine to enhance the flavors of the vegetables as they cook.
Whatever approach is your preference, I find great comfort in the fact that ratatouille, which originated in the French region surrounding Nice, was originally a peasant or farmer’s dish. I can imagine a farmer arriving home after toiling all day in the fields wanting a quick and hearty meal. I feel like this after a hard days’ work, too – the last thing I want to do is sweat it out in the kitchen. Just give me something hot, good, and fast. With ratatouille I can rely on the natural good flavors of fresh in-season vegetables and be content with its simplicity.