I can't remember now where I first heard it, but the phrase "If it grows together, it goes together" is easily the best cooking tip I have ever received. It pretty much single-handedly changed the way I think about food and really opened my eyes to why seasonal eating is such a good thing. Not only is it good for the environment, but it makes getting dinner on the table that much easier...and who doesn't want that?! My husband and I are taking part in a CSA this year, and I keep going back to this mantra over and over again when trying to figure out what to do with the insane amounts of vegetables we get every week. I mean, it basically gives me permission to throw everything we get in a pot and call it a day.
Not surprisingly, the French have actually been doing this for years and calling it ratatouille! Made with a mix of zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers, ratatouille is a Provençal stew that takes advantage of the fact that these veggies are all in season at the same time. Each vegetable is sauteed separately with a whole clove of garlic (which will become melt-in-your-mouth awesome as it cooks) and then stewed together briefly, allowing for layer upon layer upon layer of flavor to build as they cook.
There are approximately a million ways to eat ratatouille—on its own, served atop a bowl of polenta, mixed into pasta, stuffed into an omelet—however, my current favorite is to use it as a filling for savory crêpes. Crêpes are one of those things that seem really intimidating and hard to make, but aren't! We have a tutorial on how to make them, but basically the two secrets are to let the batter rest so that the flour is fully absorbed, and to use a well-greased hot pan for cooking. You can even make the batter ahead of time so that once the stew is done, it will be ready to go.
For the ratatouille
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves whole
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups chopped onions cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 cups chopped zucchini cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 cups chopped red bell pepper cut into ¾-inch pieces
- 2 cups chopped eggplant cut into ¾-inch pieces
- ⅓ cup water
- ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 ounces goat cheese
For the ratatouille
- In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 whole garlic clove, cooking until fragrant and beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt and the red pepper flakes. Saute until soft, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large pot and set aside.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 garlic clove over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Saute until slightly softened and golden brown, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to the pot with the tomatoes and set aside.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 garlic clove over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the zucchini and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook over high heat until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to the pot with the tomatoes and onions. Set side.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 garlic clove over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Cook over medium-high heat until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Transfer to the pot with the rest of the veggies. Set aside.
- Finally, in the same pan, add the remaining garlic, olive oil, and eggplant along with ¼ teaspoon salt over medium-high heat. Saute until browned and cooked through, stirring frequently, about 6-8 minutes. If the pan starts to look dry, add a splash of water. Add the eggplant to the pot of veggies.
- Add the water to the pot of vegetables, along with half of the torn basil leaves and the bay leaf. Cook, covered, over medium heat for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for 2-5 minutes longer to reduce slightly. Remove the bay leaf.
For the crepes
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs and oil. Slowly whisk the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing until well combined. Let sit for 20 minutes.
- Lightly grease a large nonstick pan or a crepe pan and set over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of batter to the pan and swirl to coat the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the edges of the crepes start to curl. Flip and cook the other side for 30-45 seconds. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining batter.
- Serve crepes topped with the ratatouille, goat cheese and remaining basil leaves.