This is the classic dish from Provence, made the easy way. Purists like to cook all the vegetables separately and combine them afterwards. That method provides extra intensity of flavor — but for everyday purposes, the method below works very well.
If you like spicy food, crumble in a dried hot pepper when you add the herbs and seasonings to the simmering ratatouille.
1 large or 2 medium zucchini
1 sweet pepper, red or green
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. herbes de provence (see note below)
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 small dried cayenne pepper (optional)
First, prepare the vegetables. This is a simple matter as no peeling or salting or seeding is necessary. Chop the eggplant into large cubes. Slice the zucchini into rounds about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick — if it’s a very large zucchini slice in half lengthwise first. Core the pepper, cut it in half lengthwise and slice into fine half-rounds. Dice the tomatoes.
Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a medium-size stewing pot. Add the eggplant and sauté over a medium flame until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir from time to time with a wooden spatula. Add the zucchini, sweet pepper and garlic. Stir to mix. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil. Stir again and sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. (Many ratatouille recipes include onions. This is a matter of taste. If you’d like to try it that way, chop an onion into thin slices or rounds and add with the garlic.)
When the vegetables have softened, add the tomatoes, herbes de provence, salt and pepper. As the tomatoes release their juices, scrape the bottom of the pot with your spatula to blend the browned bits into the sauce. Turn down the heat to low and simmer gently for half an hour. Set aside for at least 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 2-4.
Herbes de provence is a southern French mixture of dried herbs that typically includes thyme, a little rosemary, marjoram or oregano, and possibly savory or basil. If the mixture is not sold where you live, compose it yourself by combining the various herbs mentioned above and storing them in an airtight jar. In a pinch, just thyme will do.