Here are the main things I remember about some of the places I’ve been: Seattle – a spicy seafood stew with garlic toast at Steelhead Diner. Venice – seafood lasagna at a little restaurant on the canal where the gondoliers ate lunch. Sienna – thick, homemade noodles in a perfect sauce at an outdoor café in a piazza. Paris – tiny quiche at the boulangerie next to our hotel in the Marais. Amsterdam – nothing because the food was terrible. London – bubble and squeak at a restaurant overlooking the big Ferris wheel.
And now I add, New York – ratatouille at Le Grainne cafe in Chelsea. A beautifully humble dish. Maybe I liked it so much because it was October, and the leaves were turning, and the door to the café was open, and there were bright orange mums on the sidewalk outside the door, and the cold-ish fall air was slipping inside. When they brought the ratatouille to my table, with a side of toasted baguette, it was the perfect color, fragrance, warmth, taste. And I thought, what a way to elevate a side of vegetables.
Ratatouille is peasant food, the kind of thing that grandmas have been making for generations. It’s no big deal. But it’s also everything I love on a plate.
6 to 8 as a side dish
A little over one hour
- 1 28 oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 eggplant, peeled, cubed.
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 zucchini, peeled, sliced, and cut in half moons
- 2 large red bell peppers, cut in good sized pieces
- A large bunch fresh basil, chopped
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- splash of red wine
Preheat oven to 350.
- Spread tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, juices included. Squish the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast 20 minutes to thicken. (This is an awesome Martha Stewart trick. The thickening adds depth the dish. Super important step.)
- While tomatoes are roasting, place cubed eggplant in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 20 min (this draws out the water). After 20 minutes, spread the eggplant out on paper towel, put another paper towel over it, and squeeze dry.
- During these first two steps, while tomatoes are roasting and eggplants are de-watering, you can chop all the rest of the veg.
- In a large Dutch oven pot, sauté onion in olive oil till caramelized and brown, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and zucchini and garlic.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper, stir.
- Add eggplant, roasted tomato, basil and splash of wine.
- Stir, cover and simmer 15 min.
- Turn off heat and let it sit with lid on to rest for another 10 min. Just let all the flavors settle in and get cozy with each other.
- Great served over a bit of angel hair pasta or toasted country bread and butter