In a quest to find a use for the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and onions pouring in from the garden I decided to make ratatouille last week. But for some reason the traditional recipe just didn’t work for me that day. So while I was sifting through recipes on the internet for an alternative I came upon this one from Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry restaurant. The back story on the recipe is that Mr. Keller was a consultant to the makers of the movie Ratatouille. The producers supposedly asked him what sort of ratatouille he would make if he knew he was serving it to the world’s most famous food critic and this is what he came up with. While strictly not a ratatouille (Mr. Keller calls it a “confit” although it’s not really a confit either) it is in the same ballpark and uses the same ingredients as the traditional ratatouille. Mr. Keller explained that his version was a riff on Michel Guérard‘s riff on a traditional Turkish dish called Imam Byildi. Imam Byildi is roughly translated as “the Imam swooned”, a reference to the Imam’s reaction to the original Turkish dish. Mr. Keller’s version is a more elegant and lighter version of the traditional ratatouille. It also just looks beautiful. My variation on Mr. Keller’s recipe follows.
1/2 each red pepper, orange pepper and yellow pepper: seeds and ribs removed
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 C. yellow onion, finely diced
1 C. Marinara sauce or 12 oz. peeled, seeded, finely diced fresh tomatoes
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat leaf parsley
1 medium zucchini
2 Japanese eggplant
1 medium yellow squash
4 large Roma tomatoes
2 medium red onion
Slice all of the above into thin slices, 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick.
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 Tbs reserved piperade from above
For the piperade , heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely. Alternately, roast whole peppers over an open gas flame or very got grill until blistered and charred. Wrap in paper toweling to steam while cooling. When cool enough to handle, peel and seed. Use half of each pepper for the piperade and reserve the remaining half for another use.
Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add Marinara sauce (or tomatoes and their juices), thyme, parsley. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them. Season to taste with salt, discard herbs. Reserve a tablespoon of this mixture for the piperade and spread remainder in the bottom of a 9 x 12 oven-proof baking dish.
For the vegetables, heat oven to 275 degrees. Down center of pan, arrange a strip of alternating slices of vegetables on top piperade, overlapping so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Around the center strip, overlap vegetables in a close spiral that lets slices mound slightly toward center. Repeat until pan is filled; all veggies may not be needed.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the sliced vegetables. Cover vegetables with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit your pan. Bake until vegetables are tender, about two hours. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. Lightly cover if it starts to brown. At the end I used a propane torch to lightly kiss the top of the vegetables with an attractive light char. Set aside to cool. May be served warm or at room temperature. Covered and refrigerated they will keep up to 2 days (reheat in 350 degree oven to warm).
For the vinaigrette, combined reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle vinaigrette on vegetables. To serve use a spatula to gently lift out of pan when serving.