We have come to the time of year when farm stands and gardens are busting at the belt. There are so many zucchini and eggplant and tomatoes that we can’t eat them fast enough. Yesterday alone I picked 13 ripe tomatoes from two plants in my garden. This is what I’ve been waiting for all year. We have entered the age of ratatouille.
Chefs think ratatouille is a bit of an art and I agree. Taking the lazy approach by tossing all the veggies together in a skillet brings on a muddied result. It’s watered down pasta sauce with some zucchini thrown in. The key to great ratatouille is cooking each vegetable separately. Tomatoes take longer to roast than zucchini; eggplant loves the grill.
By treating each veggie as an individual, you coax their best forward. That’s how I say it. Here’s how Chef Joel Robuchon says it (read outloud in thick French accent): The secret to good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself.
Oh, the French.
To get my veggies to taste truly of themselves I think about my favorite versions of each. Nothing beats a roasted tomato, so for my ratatouille I roast my tomatoes. Eggplant, when grilled, is a sponge for smoke and char. I’m a sucker for caramelized onions, one of the cheapest flavor tricks of all time. All these steps are taken one at a time, ensuring maximum flavor.
The other secret to good ratatouille is to serve it on pizza.
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, sliced
5 medium tomatoes
1 medium zucchini
1 medium eggplant
1 frozen pizza dough, thawed and at room temperature
6 ounces shredded fresh mozzarella cheese
Cook onions in 2 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently until onions are deep golden colored, about 35 minutes. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 500°F. Preheat grill.
Cut tomatoes in to 2-inch chunks and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Roast in oven until blistered and blackened in places and when juices have evaporated, about 30 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, cut zucchini crosswise into 1/4-inch slices and place on another baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Roast in oven with tomatoes until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Slice eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch slices and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Grill eggplant, turning occasionally, until charred in places and tender, about 12 minutes. Set aside.
Everything in the recipe up to this point can be made a day in advance.
Toss the pizza dough with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and slowly stretch it to fit a baking sheet. Place eggplant on dough and sprinkle evenly with onions. Top with tomatoes, zucchini, and cheese. Bake pizza until crust is golden and cheese is melted, 15 to 18 minutes. Top with fresh basil.
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