Southern Ratatouille

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This is a Southern take on a healthy, classic French summer dish. The addition of bacon and a fried egg provides nice richness and some extra protein. Instead of the traditional kinds of zucchini and eggplant, head to your local farmers market and see if you can find some unusual varieties to experiment with. Summer is the perfect time to do so! If you’re in the Raleigh area, the NC State Farmers Market is bursting with tomatoes, squash, and eggplants of all shapes and sizes – a great outing for little ones. I couldn’t resist buying these little eggplants that were just Charlotte’s size, pictured above. So tiny and adorable! This is definitely something to make on a weekend, when you have time to leave it bubbling on low while you do something else, checking on it every now and then. It’s worth it, as the options for things you can do with ratatouille are plentiful. A healthy, easy one-dish meal. Enjoy!

Southern Ratatouille:

Serves 8-10 (could easily be divided in half)

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices thick-cut, best quality bacon
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 long slender eggplant such as Japanese or Machiaw, sliced thick, tossed in salt for a few minutes then rinsed
  • 3 zucchini or similar squash such as Mediterranean or Gold Bar, cubed
  • 5 yellow summer squash, cubed
  • 8-10 small tender okra, sliced thick
  • 10 large, ripe, heirloom tomatoes, loosely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
  • 4 sprigs thyme, stripped
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, stripped
  • 6 leaves basil, sliced thin, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • Pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese savings
  • French bread for dipping

Method:

  • In a Dutch oven or your largest soup pot, cook the bacon on medium high heat, then drain on paper towels. Once cooled, loosely chop.
  • Then, add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and saute the garlic and onion for 3-5 minutes until fragrant and translucent on medium heat.
  • Add another tablespoon of olive oil and add the eggplant.
  • Once eggplant starts to soften, add the zucchini and squash of choice then the okra. Sauté the vegetables for a just few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Once the vegetables have started to cook, add the bacon, tomatoes, tomato paste, sherry vinegar, basil, thyme, rosemary and salt. Give everything a good stir. Turn the heat up to let the tomatoes melt and form a thin sauce. Cook until the vegetables have cooked but still holding their texture and the tomatoes have formed a nice sauce, simmering for about 30-45 minutes, with the lid off.
  • Taste and add salt, pepper or additional herbs as you like.
  • Set ratatouille aside and fry 4 eggs, preferably over easy and in some bacon fat or butter.
  • Divide the ratatouille between how ever many you are serving. Top each with the fried eggs and garnish with Parmesan shavings and/or fresh basil.
  • Serve with French bread.

Cooking/Eating Notes:

  • The vegetable portion of this dish makes a great puree for older babies (I would say at least 8 months because of the acidity from the tomatoes).
  • Serve this in a bowl rather than plate for your toddler, letting them use bread to dip and soak up the sauce.
  • Other ideas for serving ratatouille include with pasta, rice, or served atop some toasted bread with cheese for a makeshift pizza.
  • Green beans, lima beans, corn or bell peppers all would be great substitutions.
  • Like most tomato-based dishes, this gets better with time.

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