Anti-Aubergine/Pro-Ratatouille: a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma? {ratatouille}

This is a new blog post: true confessions-style. I need to air some dirty laundry and come clean about a few things. I’m sure there will still be some secrets that arise throughout this process but today, I’ll let you in on two.

  1. I was an extremely picky eater as a child
  2. I dislike eggplant a great deal

Eh, this is boring, you say. Yes and no. Not only was I a picky eater as a child, I was a dramatically picky eater – crying if I had to try something in front of my family, dry (and occasionally wet) heaving if a piece of squash was put in front of me. I am the youngest and while I will stand by not liking these things growing up, I will say that I may have embellished my reaction to these things to wrangle a bit of attention. Maybe. We’ll probably never know.

Which brings us to point number 2 and why my year living in France made ratatouille accessible. I still strongly dislike eggplant. It’s not the flavor – honestly, most foods that I don’t like today (with the exception of anchovies and other small, strongly fishy-fishes, and yes, occasionally crab and definitely mayonnaise) are as a result of a wonky texture. Eggplant is slimy. It’s a pain in my ass to salt and slice thinly enough to sneak into a lasagna and don’t even try to put that crap on my falafel, cher Chez H’anna (appropriately, the only picture I have of my falafel “sans aubergine” from Chez H’anna is one where I’ve eaten most of it – priorities, people).

Anyway…I shied away from ratatouille because of the insidious eggplant until one day I was informed (while in France, by a French person) that traditional ratatouille doesn’t actually contain eggplant, rather it focuses on the glorious courgette (zucchini, mes amis). And what do you know? I managed to stop gagging on squashes somewhere in my late teens and now consider them delicious and thus, ratatouille entered my repertoire.

So, now, if you don’t mind, I will no longer discuss my foodphobias and will give you a recipe for a delicious dinner of grilled salmon, ratatouille and couscous. And let me just apologize for all the regurgitation-talk.

  • two salmon filets
  • 5-6 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4 zucchinis, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup couscous

Those are the ingredients for the entire meal. It’s super easy and delicious and comes together pretty quickly. First things first – prep your veg for the ratatouille.

I think ratatouille is a blank canvas upon which you can paint a vegetable masterpiece. Or something. My point is – you can really do this however you want – grill the vegetables and then chop them up and mix them together, deconstruct it into some sort of vegetable stack with basil foam (don’t do that), stew them all together at once, bake them… as RonRon would say, “do you, Sam.”

Here’s me:

Heat up a dutch oven over medium high heat and add some olive oil. Saute the zucchini for 6-7 minutes until they begin to brown and then remove them from the pot.

Add a bit more olive oil to the pan and sauté the onions, red pepper and garlic for a couple minutes and then add the tomatoes, bay leaf and thyme. Cook for a couple more minutes and then add the zucchini back to the pot, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Before you serve, add in the chopped basil. As you can see, this is more of an art than a science.

While that’s simmering, make sure someone is grilling your salmon. Also, make the couscous. Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add in the couscous, cover and remove from heat. Fluff it up with a fork before you serve.

Finally, I topped dinner with a bit of feta cheese to brighten things up and it was tasty. Also, if you notice, I categorized this as vegetarian. Obviously it’s not when you serve with salmon but subbing veggie stock for chicken stock and just serving the couscous and ratatouille for dinner or as leftovers for lunch is. Enjoy.