Mark Bittman Recipe: Not Your Usual Ratatouille

In Mark Bittman's ratatouille, cauliflower (seen here in all its beautiful shades) makes a guest appearance. (Photo: Jack Letourneau, Flickr Creative Commons)

Much of what I know about the dish ratatouille I learned from the Disney cartoon of the same name. Whether you’re a ratatouille novice like me or you’ve been making a version of this for years, here’s a recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman, from his book Food Matters. This simple, all-veggie meal with its surprise twist will hit the spot for your Meatless Monday dinner. If you haven’t already, check out Bittman’s dining philosophy in Audubon’s special food issue.

Not Your Usual Ratatouille

Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes

I’ve got nothing against zucchini, but cauliflower makes a much more interesting contribution to ratatouille, because its crunchy chew complements the creaminess of the eggplant beautifully. If you prefer, replace the cauliflower with 2 or 3 small zucchinis or 1 large zucchini or summer squash. To add more substance here, stir in some white beans, cut pasta, roasted potatoes, or bits of feta cheese as the cooking nears its end.

1 medium or 2 small eggplants (about 8 ounces)
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves, for garnish
Good vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, optional

1. Trim the eggplant and cut into large cubes. If the eggplant is big, soft, or especially seedy, sprinkle the cubes with salt, put them in a colander, and let them sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably 60. (This will help improve their flavor, but isn’t necessary if you don’t have time.) Then rinse, drain, and pat dry.

2. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.

3. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the pan and add the cauliflower. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it loses its crunch, about 4 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper and cook and stir for another minute or two, until they’re soft. Add the tomato and thyme and cook for another minute, until the tomato just starts to release its juice. Return the eggplant to the pan, along with basil leaves. Give it a good stir, taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve hot or at room temperature, with vinegar or lemon. The ratatouille will keep for a couple of days, covered and refrigerated.

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