Is there such a thing as too much zucchini? Oh yes, there is.
We went away for a week and our garden went crazy. It was scorching hot at home while we were in Panama and the garden responded as if breathing its last breath; it pumped out extra vegetables in a last ditch effort to get all its children off a sinking ship.
So what to do with all this bounty? Well, besides cooking up many of the other garden inspired recipes I have, I like to make a simple and fresh ratatouille. This dish is not only versatile, but freezes well for later when all the fresh vegetables are gone. See the end of the post for some ideas on what to do with extra ratatouille.
The vegetables are cooked in stages in this recipe. I did it this way for two reasons; first because I could not fit everything in my pan all at once (even though I have a gigantic saute pan) and second, because cooking the vegetables separately keeps the first ones added from getting over cooked before everything else is done. This way the flavors remain fresh and distinct.
The definition of ratatouille from my The Food Lover’s Companion book is this; “A popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs.” Good to know I’ve been doing it right all these years.
In a large saute pan, heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Remove the onions, peppers, and garlic to a bowl.
Return the pan to the heat and add 2 more Tbsp of olive oil. Add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook until they are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan.
Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the eggplant and saute for 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup of water; the eggplant will absorb all the oil very quickly and the water will help it cook before it burns. When the water is absorbed and the eggplant begins to soften (about 5 more minutes), add the chopped tomatoes to the eggplant.
Cook the tomatoes until they start to break down and the eggplant is soft, but not mushy. Add the onions, peppers, and squash back into the pan, folding it all together with a large spoon.
Cook for another 5 minutes and add the fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Don't overcook; you want the flavors to remain fresh and distinct. Plus, if you reheat for later use, it's going to cook more then.
Some ideas on what to do with ratatouille:
Serve as a side dish. Ratatouille pairs well with grilled fish, chicken or meat.
Use as a topper on toasted bread a la bruschetta.
Use as a pasta sauce over rigatoni or penne. Toss in some chunks of fresh mozzarella or crumbled goat cheese at the end.
Combine with some cannellini beans and put it over cous cous or polenta for a quick vegetarian meal.
Puree part of it and combine to make a thick vegetable soup.
This recipe uses a lot of vegetables and yields about 12 cups of Ratatouille. It can easily be scaled down to fit whatever vegetables you have on hand.