Whenever I think of Ratatouille, I think of my brother, Cullen.
Before I learned how to cook my own meals(i.e. before I got married), I would often depend on Cullen to make dinner for the both of us(he's also vegan). I'd ask him first thing in the morning, "Do you think you could make us soup tonight?" and he'd always respond, "I'll see what I can do." I'd come home from work and could always smell the spices emanating from the house while still standing on the sidewalk. Dinner is going to be sooo good, I always thought.
One Fall, Cullen decided he was going to make a huge pot of Ratatouille for dinner. He chopped up winter squash, zucchini, and other vegetables, placed them in the crockpot, added various herbs and spices, and let it cook for the entire day. When it was dinnertime, we lifted the lid and were greeted with the most incredibly aromatic and flavorful stew. It was absolutely delicious. Between the two of us, we ate the entire pot that night.
About a month later, Cullen was away for a week when I had a strong craving for Ratatouille. I told my mom to which she confidently replied, "I'll buy all the ingredients that Cullen used and we can make it. All he did was chop everything up and put it in the crockpot." I remember talking to him on the phone the night my mom and I were preparing it. I was so sure of myself and was excited to finally make a meal on my own. Cullen assured me, of course, and said that I would do a fine job preparing the Ratatouille without him.
Dinnertime arrived and I excitedly took the lid off the crockpot, ladled out a heaping bowlful of Ratatouille, and scooped a large spoonful into my mouth. I believe the first words that came out of my mouth were, "This is terrible."
I never tried making Ratatouille since then, and that was in 2008. A couple weeks ago, though, I started thinking about it again and really wanted to give it another shot. The first batch I made, I used eggplant, which is traditionally used in Ratatouille, and tomatoes, which were parboiled and seeded. It was ok, but I remembered that I'm not a fan of eggplant or parboiled and seeded tomatoes. The second batch I made, I used precut butternut squash from Trader Joes and a can of crushed tomatoes. It was a little better, but the squash didn't taste fresh and the tomato sauce was lacking in several areas. The third batch I made, I used a whole butternut squash which I peeled and cut myself, my homemade tomato sauce, and sliced black olives.
Third time was a charm and I've been enjoying this stew for the past week. It's simple to make, but full of flavor and texture. It's the perfect meal to make when you want something simple, hearty, and warming. No longer will I go five years without Ratatouille in my life.
make six to eight servings
1 large onion, diced
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4" cubes
3 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 batch Simple Tomato Sauce, or a jar of your favorite tomato sauce
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp fresh sage
In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, until fragrant and translucent. Add butternut squash and a pinch of sea salt, and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in zucchini and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomato sauce, olives and herbs to the pot, and stir so all of the vegetables are covered. Once sauce comes to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Cook for about 45 minutes to an hour(or longer), stirring occasionally. Stew is ready when the squash is softened to your liking. Enjoy!