This recipe is a project, but oh so worth it.
A few weeks back I made my Roasted Ratatouille, which in 2012 was good for me in my early days of cooking, but now I was underwhelmed by it. I decided to make a gourmet version, and it is a lot of work, but renders a much higher caliber product. The flavor here is complex and intense, and we’ve frozen little packets of it to have welcome bursts of summer all winter long.
This is basically Francis Lam’s recipe (with modifications); he is the host of the Splendid Table podcast. First of all, for all this work, I wanted to make more than he did to have enough to freeze, and make the effort pay off. Secondly, his recipe is fun reading– very entertaining with phrases like “it’s ready when you taste it and want to punch a hole in a wall,” –but not very useful to my mind as far as directions go. I’ve remedied that here.
This is not hard to do, but takes around six hours– perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. You don’t have to stand over it; much of the time you can be doing something else in an adjoining room.
Also given the quantities of veggies here, it can be pricey to make. About half of our veggies came from our garden, which made it much more reasonable. And it cooks way down. We ended up sealing two scoops each in small ziplock bags, and put together they almost fill a gallon ziplock.
For us, the tomatoes were 10 huge homegrown ones; however, since tomatoes vary widely, I’ll list them by weight below. If you can’t weigh them, though, think 10 huge ones.
Then what do you do with this ultra ratatouille? We like it warmed with fish, in tuna melts, in an omelette, or with a poached egg on top. It is also good at room temperature as a snack, or an appetizer on crackers, or with cheese and bread. It is better the day after you make it. This stuff is rather sublime, and a little goes a long way, since you really feel like you have had something with all that flavor impact.
Ultra Ratatouille Recipe
2 heads garlic, peeled and minced (in food processor)
6 shallots, peeled and minced (in food processor)
good olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
5 red bell peppers, pureed in food processor
8 pounds of very good organic tomatoes, preferably heirloom, pureed in food processor
6 summer squash, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
6 zucchini, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 small globe eggplants, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
two big bunches of fresh basil, minced (in food processor)
1 bunch of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems and chopped
Preheat the oven to 450ºF
Start by cooking the garlic and shallots in 1 cup (yes, really) olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy pot. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir them often and do not let them brown or caramelize. When they are a soft, sticky mess, add the pureed red pepper, and season again with salt and pepper. Let this cook down slowly, stirring frequently so it doesn’t brown.
Meanwhile toss the zucchini with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in one layer for 25 minutes until brown on one side. Let it cool and then put it in a big bowl. Then roast the yellow squash and then the eggplant in the same way. The whole time you are stirring what is on the stove, you should be are rotating the other vegetables through the oven.
When the red pepper, shallot, garlic mixture is “like a rich, rusty jam” add in the pureed tomatoes, seasoning it again with salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil, and turn it way down to simmer and reduce over time. Stir the tomatoes occasionally, being sure they do not brown at all. When all this reduces to a pint sized jar, and it is close to wanting to brown, take it off the stove!
Chop up the thyme and basil, and add all the parts together: roasted veggies, tomato mixture, and herbs. Stir it gently so as not to mash it up. Wrap it up tightly and let it sit in your refrigerator for a day, while the flavors mingle. Freeze most of it while it is still fresh and have the taste of summer all winter.