R is for Ratatouille! Yes, Ratatouille – one of the casserole dishes from the Southern Province of France Nice. Pronounced as rat-ə-TOO-ee – Ratatouille is a traditional French Provencal stewed vegetable dish that originated in Nice and the full name of the dish is Ratatouille Niçoise
It’s believed that the word ratatouille came from Occitan ratatolha and the recipe comes from Occitan cuisine. Apparently Ratatouille originated in or around the present day Provence and Nice area. Some other varieties of the dish are the Catalan Samfaina and the Majorcan Tombet. Ciambotta – spring vegetable dish from the Southern Italy is also a similar dish to Ratatouille.
According to Joël Robuchon – the renowned French Chef and restaurateur the secret of a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables separately so each will taste truly of itself. Usually served as a side dish, Ratatouille can also be enjoyed as a meal on its own with various accompaniments including pasta, rice or bread. The key ingredients in a Ratatouille dish are tomatoes, along with garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, marjoram, fennel and basil, or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs like herbes de Provence.
Apparently there is a debate on how to make a traditional Ratatouille and one of the methods is to simply sauté all of the vegetables together. Some cooks insist on a layering approach, where the eggplant and the zucchini are sautéed separately, while the tomatoes, onion, garlic and bell peppers are made into a sauce. The ratatouille is then layered in a casserole – eggplant, zucchini, tomato/pepper mixture – then baked in an oven. A third method, favoured by Joël Robuchon, is similar to the previous; however, the ingredients are not baked in an oven but rather recombined in a large pot and simmered.