Thursday, May 30, 2013


Joseph’s take on Ratatouille!

I introduced J. to this lovely dish a couple of years ago, but he’s really taken off with it. I like his better than mine, now...sooo nice to smell that aroma wafting in from the kitchen as I type!

After my first husband passed away, I missed cooking for someone besides myself–so I arranged to go one day a week to my friend Patti’s after she got home from work, and one day to my cousin Keith’s family to keep my hand in! Ratatouille was always a big hit, and among the most-requested entrees. I’ve even cooked it for a dinner party at Jim and Ginger Nelson’s, who own Olde English Garden Shoppe. That’s where I show my art, and they carry some fantastic goodies, including Lemon Curd with their own label (but imported from Jolly Old England!)–drop by (though I won’t promise ratatouille there at the shop...)

This dish always made a hit–it’s hearty peasant fare with a slightly sophisticated air. The word is Occitan, apparently–that’s a language spoken in Southern France, the Occitan Valleys of Italy, Monaco and in the Aran Valley of Spain, according to Wikipedia–but also from the French touiller–“to toss food.”

Soooo–FOOD FIGHT, anyone?!?! ;=)

More from Wiki here:

I used to serve this over rice, or by dipping a chunk of bread into the broth, but mostly do without grains these days to avoid carbs that don’t come with much nutritional value. You need feel no such compunction, of course! (Home made bread. Crusty. Soaked in this luscious broth...ohhhhhh....)

*Ahem.*’s J’s delicious version, with my notes..

The chef's in the kitchen, starting the ratatouille!

1. 2 lbs sweet Italian sausage

Into the soup pot, once browned!

1 Vidalia onion, chopped

1 pkg “Stop Light” peppers – one red, one yellow, one green, chopped (If you’re looking to save money, three greens will just work fine.) Kate’s note: but it’s not as pretty...
1 small eggplant, chopped

2 summer squash (yellow or zukes or both), chopped

J. cutting the eggplant into bite-size chunks

Extra virgin olive oil

Spices to taste – garlic, basil, oregano, fennel
Note: as each item is browned, it is added to a large pot on low heat on the back burner. To brown this much you either need a BIG skillet (ours is an antique made of pressed steel, 13” in diameter) or you can do it in smaller batches and then dump it all together to finish cooking. (Otherwise it just sort of steams...)

Brown cut-up sausage in oil.

Brown onion and peppers in oil and grease from sausage. Add the herbs and spices. We almost never measure these – just whatever looks and smells right.

Brown eggplant – you will need to add more oil as eggplant is very thirsty. When eggplant is almost done, add the summer squash and brown them both together.

Everything should now be put in the large pot which you will leave on low heat for at least a couple of hours prior to serving.

Go ahead, taste it! You KNOW you want to...

It can be served as-is, though I may add a little good pasta sauce (Victoria Organic Tomato & Basil* is my favorite, though we can’t seem to find it locally–look around, it’s worth it!) and some Parmesan/Romano/Asiago cheese.

Kate’s Note #1: By the way, the traditional version says tomatoes are *mandatory.* Ooops. I don’t put ‘em in when I make it...anyway, it’s hard to saute ripe tomatoes.

Kate’s Note #2: The French chef often uses Herbes de Provence for this, a delightful mixture that usually involves rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender flowers and other herbs, with the thyme flavor usually dominant. (According to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia at, some cooks maintain that lavender is an essential ingredient of true herbes de provence.) But since the mixture sold by this name didn’t come into existence till the 1970s, I’d say use what you like and call it what you want. I guess “Herbes a lá Joseph” works here!

Kate’s Note #3: If you can stand NOT to eat this the same day, it gets even better overnight, as the flavors “marry.” You can also remove most of the fat, which rises to the top when cold. (There will be a lot less fat, of course, if you’ve opted for turkey instead of pork sausage.)

If you’re wondering what the heck Vidalia onions are (J. just said “EVERYBODY knows what Vidalia onions are!” What an optimist...) you can check out their official site, at

Here’s a bit of history from their site: “Did you know the discovery of our now-famous sweet onions was actually a fluke? Farmers in the 1930s were disappointed with results from traditional row crops like cotton and tobacco. Looking for a new “cash cow,” they planted onions. Imagine their surprise when the fledgling crop turned out sweet instead of hot like regular onions!

In the early 1940s, the State of Georgia built a farmers’ market in Vidalia. It was located at the junction of many of the state’s most bustling roads, and word soon spread of an amazingly different onion, repeatedly described as “those sweet onions from Vidalia."

(Hey, I can still remember when you could ONLY get them for a brief period during the year, and they had to actually come from Vidalia, Georgia. Life is good, I can get them here in Missouri, almost any time...)

* The organic tomato sauce we love can be found here, if your grocer doesn’t carry it–ours doesn’t!
Victoria Organic Tomato Basil Sauce


For you artists out there--the illustration was done with ink and watercolor (sepia ink on the veggies, black on the wire basket), one of my favorite combinations--so much so that I did a CD on the technique, and started a Flickr group pool for artists with similar interests. You can visit us here, and see art from all over the world!

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