Ratatouille was one of my mom's specialties. When I was young, I didn't see its appeal. It took her a long time to prepare, and the result was a little oily. (Sorry, Mom.)
Over the years I have roasted that same combination of vegetables, incorporating them into salads, pasta dishes and pilafs. In this dish, the eggplant, zucchini and onion slices are brushed with a flavorful garlic-herb oil and grilled, then immediately transferred to a bowl and sealed in with aluminum foil to finish the cooking. Roasted bell pepper and vinegar help balance the flavors.
Use the oven's broiler if you don't have a grill.
Servings: 6 - 8
Yield: Makes about 4 1/2 cups
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh oregano
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound thin-skinned eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 pound zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1 medium red bell pepper, roasted, seeded and peeled, then cut into generous 1/4-inch pieces (see NOTE)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to high (500 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly in the cooking area. For a very hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 5 inches above the coals for 1 or 2 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly grease the grill rack with cooking oil spray and place it on the grill.
Combine the garlic, parsley, oregano, chives and oil in a blender or mini food processor. Puree until fairly smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, pulsing to incorporate. It's not important that's it perfectly pureed. If you don't want to use a blender or food processor, you can finely mince the garlic and herbs and mix them with the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Lay out the eggplant, zucchini and onion slices on aluminum-foil covered baking sheets or large platters. Brush the vegetables with the garlic-herb mixture on both of the cut sides.
Working in batches, place the vegetables on the grill. Close the lid and cook for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables have good grill marks. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the vegetables from burning. Turn them over, close the lid and cook until the second sides have good grill marks.
Transfer the cooked vegetable slices to a large bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Repeat until all the vegetables are grilled, then let them rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
Cut the vegetables into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine the eggplant, zucchini and onion with the roasted bell pepper and the vinegar; stir to combine. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: To roast bell peppers, arrange them on a piece of aluminum foil under the broiler, about 4 inches from the flame. Let the peppers become blistered and charred on one side, then rotate so a new side is exposed. Continue until most of the skin is charred. Don't worry if the peppers lose their form. Place the peppers in a zip-top plastic bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap to sit for 15 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, discard their skins.
From columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
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