No, I haven't seen the movie. But I've known about Ratatouille for a lot longer than the Pixar version. It's one of those long-standing classic dishes, but until recently, I could not tell you why the dish made so much sense. Not until last summer at the farmers market while I was shopping what was fresh and in season for mid-summer.
Consider what is in season right now: tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, okra, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic. All in season, all together, all in the one recipe. Makes perfect sense to build a dish around those ingredients, right? I just never got that point. The recipe existed before the corner Megamart with anything and everything regardless of season. It was built around the vegetables that were available, fresh, and in grown in one's garden. Simple. Rustic. And delicious.
I do a few things differently. Eggplant can be bitter, so I dice it first and salt it with a half teaspoon of kosher salt and let it rest while I do the other prep work. The rest of the chopping is all easy, large rustic chunks of vegetable. While those of the French or French Quarter persuasion may cringe at the idea, I do not peel my tomatoes. I also roast the dish in the oven to get the most sweetness out of the vegetables.
It's better the next day, cold even. The flavors marry overnight. Most of all, it's an easy and healthy way to use everything in season in one big pot. One more reason why those traditional recipes have endured.
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.