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Friday, May 16, 2014

Ratatouille with Piment d'Espelette and Capers

This may be appalling to the purists, but here is the most heart warming and flavorful ratatouille I've ever had.  I followed most of the basic rules, but added some piment d'espelette into the seasoning and sprinkled some capers at the end.  I chose to serve mine under a poached egg, but that is completely optional.  Ratatouille goes well with any type of protein, but traditionally, it is served with lamb.
I'm not very traditional, but this is actually an authentic French recipe (apart from my 2 minor additions) and I don't think I'd make it any other way in the future.
The sexiest part of ratatouille is the eggplant.  Have I mentioned how delicious and creamy eggplant can make me delirious?  It does.. and every single time.  I tasted pieces of eggplant at various stages of cooking and my eyes closed in pleasure every time.
The other important part of making good ratatouille is having quality ingredients.  You want all those veggies to shine so they might as well be top notch on their own.  Last and definitely not least is the quality of the olive oil you use.  With the good stuff, a little will take you a long way and you won't need to season much because all the flavor will be in and absorbed by the olive oil.
I used some hand pressed stuff from a friend's olive trees.
I'm just remembering why I love living in France.
Ah yes, as I was chopping the veggies for this while doing a few other things at the same time in the kitchen, the exact thoughts that went through my mind and in this order were:

Damn this eggplant in olive oil is good I would probably just eat it half cooked like this.. oops it dripped on the IS true I do make a lot of bordel (mess) when I'm cooking... hmm how would "bordel" translate literally?... whorehouse?... haha vive la France!

Serves 4-5 as a side
1 very large eggplant, cubed
1 large zucchini, cubed
juice from 1 lime
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bell pepper (I used greed corne de boeuf), chopped
2 large very juicy tomatoes, chopped
6 Tbsp very fine quality EVOO
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
2 (or more) tsp flake salt
1 tsp dried piment d'espelette
2 tsp capers
(optional) 1 poached egg per person
1.  Toss the eggplant and zucchini with the lime juice and 1 tsp of the flake salt.  Place in a colander and let "sweat" for 30 minutes.  During this time you can prep your other ingredients or talk to yourself.
2.  Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a wok and add the sweated eggplant cubes.  Stir well so all the pieces are coated with oil and add the basil and 1/2 tsp piment d'espelette.  Cook for about 5 minutes until tender, then reserve.  (I think the purists peel it, first but I like the purple sexiness in my food). 
3.  Add 2 more Tbsp olive oil in the wok and add the sweated zucchini.  Stir well and add the thyme and the remaining piment d'espelette.  Cook for a bit longer than the eggplant, then reserve with the eggplant.  I would have done both together, but my wok was not big enough and I wanted it to be decadent.
4.  Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the wok and add the chopped onions with the other tsp flake salt.  Cook until translucent.
5.  Add the garlic and bell peppers.  Stir fry about 1-2 minutes, then add the tomatoes.  (Purists will have you blanch, peel, and juice them first.. but I really don't believe that is necessary).
6.  When the tomatoes start becoming a bit mushy (maybe 2-3 minutes) add back in the eggplant and zucchini with all the delicious juice goodness it is witholding.
7.  Stir, cover, and cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes, making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of your wok.
8.  Stir in the capers, then taste and adjust the seasoning.  I didn't need to add anything.. it was perfect.

Serve as a side or as I did, a wholesome meal with a poached egg.
The best part of meals like this is that it's essentially a side dish, so tomorrow will be a whole other adventure for my re-invented ratatouille!
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