Looking through my collection of ratatouille recipes, I notice they reflect the evolution in American cooking since the 1960s.

Perhaps Julia Child first taught you, along with me, to make this French classic. Her recipe follows the painstaking Provenal style, with vegetables sauteed individually and then layered together in a big casserole. The result, rich with olive oil and garlic, embodies the leisurely pace of southern France. It is what we now call Slow Cooking.

Depending on the demands of life, peeling tomatoes and scrubbing three pots to prepare this recipe could mean either a pleasant morning in the kitchen or a laborious chore.

In time, many cooks moved from worshipping ethnic authenticity to a fascination with California-style fusion cooking. This included grilling nearly everything, even the vegetables, for ratatouille.

My favorite recipe from this period came from San Francisco chef Joyce Goldstein. It cuts down indoor kitchen time, especially cleaning up, but standing over the grill turning vegetables piece by piece is tedious for large batches.

The ratatouille I make now is my own creation. It melds techniques from earlier favorites, plus twists on the usual ingredients. The flavors of this ratatouille are strong but mellow, thanks to sweet bell peppers, sweet onion and Asian eggplant.

I still brown squash and eggplant Julia's way, enjoying the caramelized flavors this produces, and I char the peppers on a grill or over a gas flame. (Commercially-bottled roasted peppers also work nicely.) Cooking spray helps cut down on the olive oil needed. Then I add cherry tomatoes, cooking them just enough to pop gently, and a touch of hot pepper.

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Ratatouille with Sweet Peppers

Makes 8 servings.

  • 1 small eggplant, about 5 ounces, thinly sliced
  • olive oil spray
  • 1 medium green summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 fresh garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/4-inch strips
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil, or 1 1/2 tsp. dried
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes seeded and cut in 1/4-inch strips
  1. Place eggplant in a bowl. Spray lightly with olive oil spray, tossing to coat evenly. In another bowl, do the same with the squash. Set both within hands reach near the stove. Coat a large pot liberally with the spray. Heat over medium-high heat. Add and saut eggplant until lightly browned, turning the slices often, about 4 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate.
  2. Add onions to the pot. Coat liberally with cooking spray. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Mix in garlic and cook, stirring until onions start to color, about 1 minute.
  3. Add squash, peppers, eggplant, basil and cayenne pepper. Mix in tomato paste. Cover and cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Uncover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes. Transfer to a large container with a lid and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate up to 3 days. Bring ratatouille to room temperature before serving. It tastes best when cooked the day before serving.

Nutrtional Information Per Serving:
32 calories,
0 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat),
7 g. carbohydrate,
1 g. protein,
1 g. dietary fiber,
36 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 Vegetable


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