Julia Child’s Ratatouille
This summer I challenged myself to familiarize myself with the most influential people in the culinary industry before I started at the CIA. Well it sounded like a reasonable goal, it’s now the middle of August and I haven’t exactly made a dent! Since I still have more than a month before I leave for school I decided to make the effort to study up on the ‘greats’ of the food world. Along with reading up on these chefs I thought I would also try and learn about them through their recipes and food. I want to try and make at least one of their famous recipes and share it with you on my blog.
For me Julia Child was the obvious chef to start with. (Today would also be her 101st birthday, so all the more reason to cook in honor of her!) I also happen to be reading Julie and Julia so I am fascinated by her influence. Growing up I always heard Julia Child references, however, I never really knew much about her. Until recently when I started watching re-runs of her TV show and reading about her the only images I had of Julia Child were of Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia. The movie, however, only captures a fraction of her life and larger than life personality. Julia’s love of French food and passion for cooking redefined the standard for America’s home cooks.
Julia Child is credited with introducing American’s to the realm of French cuisine. Julia’s culinary adventure began after she met her husband Paul and moved to Paris. She fell in love with French food and attended Le Cordon Bleu. Julia then compiled hundreds of recipes with two other women, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, into the famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This adored cookbook is still used by home cooks around the world. While promoting her cook book, Julia unexpectedly landed a career as a television personal. Her gregarious personality and passion for cooking empowered home cooks across America. She encouraged women to find enjoyment in cooking rather than look at it as another dreadful chore.
At first I thought I should make Julia’s beef bourguignon or coq au vin, but I decided to save those for culinary school. I wanted to make a light summer dish and use up some of the vegetables from our farm share. Julia Child’s ratatouille is a light summer dish that utilizes an abundance of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and squash. Ratatouille is a great example of rustic French food. This recipe is easy to follow and can be made in advance. I made it in the morning and reheated it at night for dinner. The great thing about ratatouille is it actually gets better the longer it sits in the refrigerator! Julia Child would serve ratatouille as a side dish or on it’s own with a fresh piece of baguette. My family’s favorite way to eat ratatouille might be less traditional, but we like it over a bowl of pasta with Parmesan cheese. I recommend using linguine or fusilli pasta.
Julia Child's Ratatouille
Yields 6-8 servings
1 pound eggplant
1 pound zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
4-6 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1/2 pound thinly sliced yellow onions (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 green peppers (about 1 cup)
2 cloves mashed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound tomatoes (peeled and then seeded and juiced)
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8″ think, about 3″ long and 1″ wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends and cut into slices about the same size as the eggplant. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and dry each slice in a towel.
One layer at a time, saute the eggplant and then the zucchini in 4 tablespoons hot olive oil in a 10-12″ skillet for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.
In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers (add an additional 2 tablespoon of olive oil if needed) for about 10 minutes, until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Slice tomato pulp into 3/8″ strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, taste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes until juice has almost entirely evaporated.
Place a third of the tomatoes mixture in the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart casserole (about 2 1/2″ deep). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon fresh, minced parsley over tomatoes. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip the casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.
Sources: "Julia Child's Ratatouille." ABC. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. "Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Child!" The Cut. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. "Julia Child Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 14 Aug. 2013.