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Cooking Ratatouille

I have a lot more time studying here in France than I do when I’m at school in the US, so I’ve been trying to teach myself how to cook dishes that are a little more sophisticated than tossing everything I can find in my cupboards on top of some lettuce and calling it a salad.

I was looking through a list of traditional French recipes from southeastern France (because that’s where I’m living, specifically in a city called Antibes), and ratatouille caught my eye. Most people are probably familiar with the dish thanks to the Disney Pixar movie. I was interested in it because it was made entirely of vegetables! My diet here consists of ridiculous amounts of bread and cake, so I wanted to change things up a bit. I slightly modified a recipe I found online for ratatouille because I didn’t need enough to serve the 6 people it allowed for.

 I used:

 ½ cup olive oil (though actually I think I accidentally added in a lot more than the end it didn’t make it taste bad, but next time I’ll try to keep my ratatouille a little less oily)
1 tbsp. herbes de Provence 
6 cloves of garlic (smashed and peeled)
4 small onions 
1 zucchini 
1 eggplant 
1 yellow pepper 
5 tomatoes (the recipe called for canned and peeled, but I just chopped up fresh tomatoes instead)
 The vegetables that made me feel better about having eaten two of everything on this platter... 

The recipe said to cut the vegetables into rather large pieces, but with my host-mom’s blessing (she is a much more knowledgeable cook than me and is kind enough to always be willing to give me some guidance in the kitchen), I chopped the vegetables into bite size pieces. That way they’d cook faster, and I wouldn’t have to chop them up before I could start eating my dish. My host-mom also suggested I use a pot for the stove that she had instead of cooking the ratatouille in the oven, because she said it’d be faster.
 Preparing the garlic. 

First I put the onions, herbes de Provence, olive oil and garlic in a frying pan and cooked them over the stove for about 10 minutes. Then I added the zucchini. After about five to ten minutes, I transferred the zucchini to the larger pot my host-mom had given me and put the eggplant in the frying pan. I did the same with the eggplant and tomatoes, after which I also added the onion mixture to the pot. My host-mom came back to help me secure the lid on the pot and set the stove to a medium low temperature so that the vegetables would cook without burning. After about 30 to 45 minutes, they were ready!
 I know the picture doesn’t look particularly appetizing, but it did taste good! The different vegetables mixed with garlic and herbes de Provence creates a great mix of flavors.

Lucy Havens is the Spring 2014 MOJO in the French Riviera.  She is currently a junior at Carnegie Mellon University studying Information Systems.

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