Ratatouille originated in Provencal region of France and is often referred to as "peasant stew" since the ingredient list includes late summer harvest of vegetables that would often require quick use from the peasant's gardens since they all ripened at once. When there was an overstock of eggplant, zucchini and squash along with bell peppers at the store, this recipe started to formulate. I use all the classic ingredients, including the greens and bell peppers and combine them in a fusion dish that combines salad with pasta for a contrast of flavors and depth of complexity not unlike the original ratatouille stew.
Sustainability Spotlight: Life was a lot simpler (and harder) before our modern era. There have been incredible advances to our society, but also much degradation for over-development, which in part, includes our impacts to the planet. One such impact is from the rise of the middle class and the overall reduction of direct connection with where our food comes from; farms. Some of you may already have gardens in your backyard, and have late summer harvests that would support the sustainability of both food origin and use of that food in this recipe. However, most Americans purchase their food supply from intermediaries; grocery stores.
The removal of our direct connection with "where our food comes from" has distorted our reality for the size, shape, quality and availability of food resources. Americans are sourcing their food from the U.S., yes, but also from foreign countries and have access to wide varieties of fruits and vegetables often considered out of season (or not available for production in the U.S. due to climate). As such, we are skewed on what is actually seasonal and what we should be considering for our overall approach to food during different portions of the year.
Being mindful about what food is "in season" can aid in sustainability as you are purchasing produce that is often available from more local farmers. This is only true depending on where you live, so for example, I sit in the Midwest where the vegetables noted herein for this recipe are widely available right now as a late end of summer crop harvest. The message stays the same, find out what is seasonal for your climate, purchase and use those ingredients as best as possible when you are buying fresh and increase the sustainability of your footprint for food selection and consumption.
12-oz thin spaghetti pasta (angel hair) - we cook the full pound and serve plain noodles for the kids.
1 eggplant (chopped into 1-in pieces) - sweat eggplant ~10 minutes (place eggplant in a colander, generously salt & let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and then pat dry)
1 zucchini (chopped into 1-in pieces)
1 summer (yellow) squash (chopped into 1-in pieces)
1 tsp avocado oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 Spanish onion (chopped)
6-7 garlic cloves (diced)
2 tbsp avocado oil
2 tbsp dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
1 can (28-oz) crushed tomatoes with roasted garlic & herbs
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 handful parsley (chopped)
1 handful basil (chopped)
1 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste (1/4 & 1/8 respectively at most)
1 large handful arugula
2 bell peppers (sliced)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F; line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper
Combine all ingredients under Roasted Vegetables in a medium-large bowl, toss to coat. Dump onto your prepared jelly-roll pan and spread evenly. Roast for ~30 minutes until vegetables are softened and starting to caramelize (brown). Remove from the oven & set aside to cool slightly.
While your vegetables are roasting, heat a large and deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add avocado oil and swirl to coat. Once the oil shimmers, add your onion and saute (stirring infrequently) for ~5-7 minutes until the onion starts to caramelize and turn golden.
Next, add your garlic and stir to warm for ~1 minute.
Add remaining ingredients in Sauce above (oregano, salt, pepper, crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock). Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for ~20-25 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.
While your sauce is simmering, heat a large sauce pot over medium-high heat filled with salted water. Once it boils, add pasta and cook according to package directions (~12 minutes boil). Drain pasta (remember, save for watering indoor plants!).
Stir in olives, parsley and basil and your slightly cooled Roasted Vegetables (taste and add more salt / pepper as needed to taste). Simmer sauce for another ~2-3 minutes to warm through.
Next, add ~3/4 of the pasta (~12 oz) to your sauce pan and stir to coat. Remove from heat.
Toss all ingredients in Balsamic-Dressed Salad in a medium bowl.
Serve pasta portions in pasta bowls and top with the salad.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie