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Perfumed with the region’s olive oil, wild thyme and garlic, ratatouille is the summer vegetable stew of Provence, cooked up when potagers and market gardens are full of peppers, eggplant and zucchini. Although popular as a first course, ratatouille is sometimes served as a side dish or a main course, and is also used as a topping for egg dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 generous Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small yellow or white onions, chopped
  • 2 eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 large green, red or yellow bell peppers,
     seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 to 10 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded
     and coarsely chopped
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil

Directions:

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When it is hot, reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until the eggplant cubes are slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the zucchini and bell peppers and sauté, stirring and turning, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and stir and turn for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and have somewhat blended together, about 40 minutes.

Stir in the basil and remove from the heat. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve hot, at room temperature or cold. Serves 10.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring France, by Georgeanne Brennan (Time-Life Books, 1999).