I was busily filling my basket with eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes at the farmers market when a woman tapped me on the shoulder. “Looks like you’re going to make a big batch of ratatouille. Do you have a favorite recipe?” she asked. I smiled and said indeed I did.
Here’s the recipe I shared, which comes from a friend in Provence. It makes a hearty six cups, so serve it as a hot or cold side dish, over pasta or as a filling for an omelet. Then save four cups to make this soup. To make the ratatouille, core, peel and seed 2 1/2 pounds of ripe tomatoes; strain and save the juice. Cut 1 1/2 pounds each of small zucchini and Japanese eggplants into 1/2-inch cubes. Chop 2 onions plus 1 green and red bell pepper. Mince 4 cloves of garlic. In a large, deep skillet, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil, add the zucchini and cook until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Do the same with the eggplant. Add an additional 1/4 cup of olive oil and cook the onions and peppers for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes and reserved juice and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the zucchini and eggplant, plus a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of saffron, if desired. Simmer 20 minutes longer and voila.