Thursday, 15 September 2011

What Is Ratatouille?

    Goodbye summer. You will be missed.  Dylan Troyer
After I graduated from University I applied for a job at my local public library.  It was my first ‘professional’ job interview.  I was called into the Chief Librarian’s office.     Instead of asking the usual questions regarding education, experience etc. he asked me, “What is ratatouille?”  He looked at me condescendingly, I suspect, thinking I wouldn’t have a clue about what he had just asked me. 

I looked straight into his eyes and answered, “Well Sir it is a dish that originated in southern France and cooks all day.  It can be served as a vegetarian dish or if you prefer you can add some meat.  The one I ate in France had eggplant, zucchini also called courgette, tomatoes, green pepper, onions and garlic in it.  A splash of good olive oil was added and a generous grind of fresh pepper.”  He arrogantly looked at me in complete surprise.  By that time I knew I could not work with this man.  I stood up and told him that, “I was no longer interested in the job” and I walked out shutting the door behind me.  I never looked back but I did look forward to going home that day to make a pan of Ratatouille. 

Ratatouille is an easy and inexpensive vegetarian dish to make.  It is a healthy choice.   It is straightforward to put together and this is the perfect time of the year to make it.  September is a bountiful month in southern Ontario.  Here is my Mom’s version Canadian style.

 Bea’s Fresh Vegetable Stew

4 average size zucchini, sliced
3 medium tomatoes sliced
Assortment of peppers sliced (yellow, red, hot, green)
Cube an eggplant if you have it
3 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Black pepper
In a large frying pan, at a medium temperature heat the oil then add the vegetables.  Stir and cook them until the tomato softens and the juice runs.  Lower the heat and cover the pan.  Cook for thirty minutes.  If it gets a bit dry add either a splash of water or tomato juice and let it simmer a further 30 minutes until everything has cooked. * It could take a bit longer if you have added eggplant.  Serve it with a nice loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of wine. Enjoy!
A lot of people enjoy the zucchini flowers made into fritters.  Natalie Campagnolo, Owner/Instructor of ‘La Cucina di Natalina, Italian Cooking School’ has generously provided me with her recipe for the fritters as well as the pictures of zucchini from her garden.  Check out her website:

Zucchini Blossom Fritters

2 cups zucchini blossoms, washed, blanched, *see instructions below
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. Baking Powder
2 ¾ cups water + extra if needed

Pick flowers when they are open, watch for bees and other insects. (2 large steel bowls equal roughly 2 cups cooked)  I gather my blossoms daily, in the am over 4-5 mornings until I have enough.  You could also blanch them, cool them off and freeze until you have enough.  They are very perishable and don’t last long in the fridge. Remove the stem and other green pieces on the “cap” .Tear gently in 2 pieces and wash. Bring water to a boil and add blossoms.  Boil for approx. 5 minutes until limp and cooked. Let them cool off. Season blossoms with a little salt

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients, add water and whisk until no lumps remain
Add blossoms to the batter and using your hand mix until all is incorporated and the batter is a light yellow colour.  It should be the consistency of pancake batter.
Heat vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan.  When it is hot enough fry about 1/3 cup of batter at a time, spreading it out so it is not too thick (add a little more water if necessary to thin out).  Cook and turn while frying until golden on both sides (you may have to turn them over a few times).  Drain on paper towels, serve hot.
Sprinkle with sea salt if you wish & Enjoy!

If you want to read about the zucchini’s nutritional benefits check out this link: .


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am a vegetarian so it's nice to see the recipe not using meat. Thanks.