One of my side projects this year is taking some of my mother-in-law's favorite recipes and "making them modern". For the most part they are 1960's era - you can imagine the love of using what was then brand new processed foods as key ingredients.
I add or remove certain ingredients to make the recipes fresh and flavorful. Lately I've been in love with Middle Eastern flavors so if I can, I'll add those too. I often tweak the method. And most of all, I remember Tovah.
Coming from nothing, Tovah never took anything for granted. One minute she was in a factory washing out jam jars to help her parents make ends meet and the next minute she was married with her own small home in a middle class neighborhood. Don't ever underestimate the effort required to jump social and economic classes.
Although it's a rustic peasant dish, ratatouille was fancy-schmancy back then. It was one of the first French dishes that my mother-in-law and the friends on her suburban street cooked for company. This was the era of chafing dishes and Harvey Wallbanger cocktails.
Tovah was living life out loud decades before that became a cliche. For someone who had every reason to be an Eeyore, to be gloomy and maybe even a bit bitter, she was the complete opposite. She loved to laugh, loved hanging out with friends & family, and was up for anything. I see her every day in my husband and our daughter. Now that's a legacy.
My husband hadn't eaten ratatouille since he was a kid. He didn't have fond memories. That'd be an understatement. Think tomato-y sauce with mystery lumps.
I think the style then was to finely chop everything. As a result ratatouille was more like a veggie sauce than a rustic stew.
I love my ratatouille chunky - I want the vegetables in large pieces for the look, the texture and the flavor. And the man? He loved it.
The addition of the harissa and the chickpeas add so much! Do you cook with harissa? It's a moroccan sweet/hot chili paste. I like it because it adds heat and flavor without making it so burning hot that you can't taste the ingredients.
Serve Moroccan Ratatouille with crusty bread or pita or couscous. Top with a poached or boiled egg for breakfast. A side dish with chicken or fish. Eat it warm or eat it cold. It's up to you.
(print recipe here)
The amount of each ingredient can be adjusted depending upon the proportions that you prefer.
1 14 oz can chick peas
1 each of red, yellow and orange pepper, chopped into 1-2” chunky pieces
4 heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped into 1-2” pieces
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1” slices
1 medium eggplant, sliced into ½” slices
1 large sweet onion, chopped into 8ths
1 large red onion, chopped into 8ths
1 tsp harissa (Moroccan chili paste)
Preheat over to 375F.
Drain and rinse the chick peas in a colander and leave to dry.
Sprinkle the zucchini and eggplant with salt, put in a single layer in a colander and let drain for 30 minutes or so (you can skip this step if you like).
Toss peppers and tomatoes in a large bowl with a few tbsp of olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment. I needed two baking sheets. Sprinkle a sliced garlic clove on each sheet.
Roast peppers and tomatoes for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on them - you want them soft and slightly browned but still a bit firm rather than mushy. Remove and put aside for now.
Wipe off the eggplant and zucchini with a paper towel. Toss in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Sprinkle with remaining sliced garlic clove. Roast for about 30 minutes til browned and softened.
Meanwhile, heat up a few tbsp of olive oil and sauté the onions on medium heat til softened and slightly browned. Mix in a tsp of harissa. If you like it really spicy, you can add more.
Combine peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, chickpeas, and onions in one bowl. Season with salt to taste.