Saturday, July 25, 2020


Every summer there's that one week when all the vegetables for ratatouille come together at the same time. The boys aren't really aubergine/eggplant lovers, but will tolerate it in something flavourful. For the horridly hot weather we've been having, it would be hard to find a better meal than ratatouille with some crusty bread. 

I admit to being conflicted between my desire for ratatouille and all the extra olives, celery and capers in caponata. They're such similar ingredients, but completely different dishes. I dealt with it by serving a dish of mixed olives with dinner. 

In my experience, ratatouille isn't the place for shortcut recipes. Some dishes don't suffer from streamlining, but ratatouille does. I grew up eating a version of it that was mushy and watery because everything got chucked in a pot together and boiled within an inch of its life. Sure,I lived with an appallingly bad cook, but in her defense she was following a recipe (it was the 70s) even if it probably came from ,a weight-loss cookbook. So let's establish that you absolutely should not use vegetable/and or tomato juice to make ratatouille and you need to cook the ingredients in a certain order. Block off about an hour of time, more if you're slow chopping vegetables. 

Over the years I've decided Julia Child's recipe is best for the cook that requires details often overlooked by people like Raymond Oliver. La Cuisine is a cookbook for after you've learned to cook just as Elizabeth David's bread book doesn't give good directions as she assumes the reader can bake. Julia Child knew her readers were going to cock it up-so the steps are very, very precise. 

I love the way Mastering the Art of French Cooking is laid out. The ratatouille recipe calls for peeled, seeded and juiced tomatoes, and there's the instructions for the technique right at the end of the recipe. The recipes begin by telling you what equipment will be required, and ingredients are listed in order of use. 

A reprint of the recipe may be found HERE. I do however encourage you to buy the book as it is a great help with foolproof recipes for crepes, aspics, etc. You also learn technique. I've had my copy since the early 90s, and I use it less as the years go on, but when I was learning to cook it was a great reference. 

Finally, don't be intimidated by photos like the one at the link. No one arranged ratatouille like that before Instagram­čśŐ. 


Bibi Maizoon said...

I have not made ratatouille in years. I do recall the Weight Watchers recipes calling for V8 juice though. Ugh. Over salted, overcooked & atrociously bad. My recipe looks similar to Julia's but with twice the garlic.

Vix said...

That looks so good!
Like Beth, I haven't made ratatouille for years. It was my signature dish as a student. I went to stay with a friend who moved to Barcelona back in the late 1980s and his housemates greeted me with "when are you making ratatouille?" xxx

Polyester Princess said...

I must admit that I've never attempted to make ratatouille. And maybe that's for the best, as I'm not the most proficient of cooks, and the first thing I look at when finding recipes is the time it'll take. I know. Anyway, even if I followed Julia's recipe to the letter, the result would never ever look like hers. I prefer my food to look a bit more what I call "rustic" :-) I do appreciate a cook book that's helpful on technique! xxx

Shannon said...

Ratatouille is one of my summer standbys. And no, you can't short cut it. The steps are the difference between V-8 mush and gorgeous ratatouille. <3

Beth Waltz said...

I'd vote for the caponata, simply because of my fondness for those extra olives, celery and capers. Olives! You've reminded me how much I miss browsing the "olive pit" -- a grand buffet of olives! -- at Jungle Jim's super supermarket in Fairfield, Ohio.

You make an excellent point about the value of cookbooks that instruct on technique as well as provide recipes! A young friend told me she hadn't known that veg are cut by size to adjust cooking time, or why they're put in the pan in a definite order.

70s recipe books are a hoot, especially those for hosting buffet suppers! I've given many copies of "The Joy of Jello" as gag shower gifts. (Actually, I sorta like the one with mandarin orange segments in peach jello w/mayo.)

bahnw├Ąrterin said...

i guess your ratatouille tastes heavenly!
i use italian readymade passata as the fresh tomatoes here are not good enough or to expensive to chuck them into soup.....
GOOD olive oil is very neccessary too.
in my 1970 there were no zucchini or aubergines, tomato juice a rare treat and if my grandpa had not planted tomatoes in a little greenhouse, i would have never eat some in my youth.....

Goody said...

It was a loooong time before I could look at v-8 juice without gagging. It was in so many recipes. These days I occasionally use it to make salad dressing, but that's it!
More garlic is almost always better.

That's not a bad signature dish to have!

I'm very much in favour of rustic cooking!!!

Exactly. Why bother making something bad?

I suspect olive bars are going to become a thing of the past. I've been doing all my grocery shopping at Fresh Thyme, and they stock a mind-boggling assortment of olives in jars and tins. I've been trying out varieties I never heard of, and they've been great.
Joys of Jell-O is art! You can't beat a stained-glass jell-o i Dream Whip for Wow factor.

We didn't get good tomatoes in Chicago either-they were pale, hard, and never seemed to ripen. I always envied people in California and Florida that could grow more than corn and cabbages. Tinned tomatoes are popular because they're reliably good. Nothing wrong with using them.

Se├▒ora Allnut said...

I love both ratatouille and caponata, and totally agree that their tastes are pretty different, even if both have similar ingredients!.
These are really 'closed' recipes and there's a reason for anything, so it's better not to take a shortcut, You Are Right!