It is hard to think about turning on the oven when it is so hot and humid outside. It is ironic to me that during the summer when the sun and the heat produces abundant amounts of fruits and vegetables, turning on a heat source to cook vegetables, or anything else for that matter, is the last thing on our mind. Fortunately fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked, hot or cold. During this crazy hot weather it is ideal to be thrifty and make one meal that can be used later for several additional meals.
Ratatouille is just that kind of dish. It can be used as a side dish with grilled meats or fish, a sauce to cook eggs or fish in, a sauce to mix with pasta or other grain for a vegetarian entrée. Ratatouille is so versatile it is worth turning on the oven once for the multiple meals it creates in the future.
I was not a huge fan of ratatouille until I tried this recipe from Mark Bittman at cooking.nytimes.com. One reason being, I first learned to cook ratatouille by sautéing each vegetable separately then combining all the vegetables in a crock and bake until bubbly. No thanks. There can be at least five different vegetables and that is just too laborious on any summer day. Secondly, I like eggplant but I do not love it, so making something with eggplant is not my first idea or inspiration. Eggplant is a stunning and beautiful plant. The color is one of my favorites and why I haven’t dismissed it altogether. The flavor, by itself, just does not excite me. With this recipe the eggplant helps give ratatouille body developing on the classic pairing of eggplant and tomatoes. The fennel and fresh herbs makes the ratatouille bright. Each ingredient adds a layer of flavor to create a medley of roasted vegetables that does not feel heavy.
Three aspects make this recipe stand out: fennel, chickpeas and the simple preparation. The fennel lightens the flavor of the roasted vegetables and the chickpeas turn it into a substantial meal when served as a vegetarian/vegan entrée. I also find the concentrated sweetness of the roasted red peppers gives the ratatouille its depth of flavor and body. Thanks to Mark Bittman, who was the Minimalist Chef for the Times, developed a cooking process that is simple and effective. There is no need to sauté each ingredient separately, just assemble the prepared vegetables on a sheep pan and roast. When finished add a large handful of fresh herbs and the ratatouille is as bright and beautiful as a summer day.
Turn on the oven for one hour and you will create a mixed vegetable cornucopia you can enjoy, for two or three additional meals. Make fennel and chickpea ratatouille as a vegetable side dish, tonight I am serving my ratatouille with lamb burgers. Or, serve ratatouille as a sauce for pasta or mixed with your favorite grain. Additionally, spread ratatouille on grilled toasts or make an open face sandwich by adding cheese and putting it under the broiler for lunch or an appetizer. Add a fried egg to the ratatouille and you have a great breakfast or light dinner.You do not need more recipes to create the additional meals, just imagine and go. The possibilities are endless.
Don’t throw out your chickpea water, make aquafaba meringue cookies
Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille
Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille
- 1 medium eggplant 1 lb or less
- 2 medium zucchinis about 1 lb
- 1 pound of plum Roma tomatoes
- 2 red and/or yellow sweet bell peppers
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 onion
- 5 garlic cloves peeled and cut in half (green germ removed)
- 1/4 cup about 60 ml olive oil
- 1 tea Kosher salt
- 3 cups cooked chickpeas 2 15 oz cans of cooked chickpeas, about 1 lb, or 487 g)
- 2 Tbs minced fresh herbs such as rosemary with thyme or lemon thyme or basil and parsley. If you do not have fresh herbs you can use 1 1/2 tea of dried Herbs De Provence.
- You will need a large roasting pan I used 12" x 17" x 2" pan. (30.5 cm x 43 cm x 5 cm)
Pre- heat the oven to 425 degrees F/ 220 degrees C/ Gas Mark 7
Cut each vegetable into similar size pieces, about one inch. There is no need to peel the eggplant, do so if it is your preference. Combine all the chopped vegetables and garlic in a large roasting pan. If you do not have a pan large enough you can use two separate pans, like rimmed baking sheets, but your cooking time might change. Add the salt and olive oil and mix until evenly combined. (If you are using dried herbs add them now.)
Bake the vegetables in the oven for 40 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the vegetables and fresh rosemary, if using. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are evenly cooked through and there is some browning in the pan. Once the vegetables are cooked take the pan out of the oven and mix in any reserved fresh herbs you are planning to use.
Serve hot or room temperature.
There are a lot of vegetables in this recipe and a large roasting pan is perfect for the job. You can use a rimmed baking sheet and divide the vegetables in half and bake on two sheets. You just might need more time roasting the vegetables.
Feel free to substitute any vegetable with your favorite summer vegetables, just keep the sizes of the chopped pieces similar. Ratatouille is traditionally tomato based vegetable "stew" that is easily adapted to what you have on hand.
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