I say winter ratatouille because of one key distinction between this dish and the alternative I might make in the summer. I used canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes, and because of this, I also altered the technique for the layering of the vegetables. If you know me well, you know that I love and respect tomatoes too much to disgrace their good name by buying a fresh tomato in the winter. The winter offers tasteless mealy pale imitations that come from God knows where. Don’t do it.
I began with Julia’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking simply because she throws each group of vegetables over some hot olive oil and sautes them slightly before putting them together in the stew, thereby calling forth the separate flavors of each before they are combined together. I like that, and it certainly worked for me here. After that, I kind of did my own thing, not because I think I can do it better than Julia, but because my amateur self is still bad at following directions.
Disclaimer: I did not use parsley. Can you call it ratatouille without the parsley? I’m not sure. I didn’t have any, but to be fair I did use lots and lots of thyme in its place, and in my book you can never go wrong with thyme. In fact, it might taste even better this way. I’ll try to remember to do a taste comparison at some point.
1 large eggplant
2 large zucchinis
1 orange bell pepper (any bell pepper works; I chose orange for aesthetic purposes)
1 yellow onion
2 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp dried oregano
1 head garlic (you can douse it with olive oil, slice off the rough end of the head, and stick it in the oven at 400° for 10 minutes and then the cloves will slip right out of their casings)
7 tbsp olive oil
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 handful fresh thyme
1 tbsp salt
(^^Hannah helped slice even with her Hulk arm. What a trooper.^^)
Preheat oven to 350.° Slice the vegetables into thin circles and separate them. Toss them with a light sprinkling of salt, basil and oregano. Heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil on a stovetop. Taking one bowl at a time, lay the vegetables over the hot oil and brown them slightly on both sides. Add more oil to the pan as needed, and heat before sauteing. Use a deep baking dish (its actually a casserole dish but I hate the word “casserole”) and layer the vegetables into it, starting with the eggplant, the zucchini, the tomatoes, the peppers and then the onions. After the first layer, top with whole roasted garlic cloves. Slice them once or twice if they are very large. Remove the thyme leaves from half of the sprigs of thyme and sprinkle over the top. Repeat the entire process. Cover the dish and set in the oven for 40 minutes. Enjoy!
(^^Before it’s been cooked^^)
(^^Also good over salad^^)