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My mom made ratatouille from the New York Times Cookbook all the time when we were kids, and I just loved it. This venerable vegetable stew from the south of France with its many flavors layered together has all the complexity of a meat stew without the meat. All the stars of Provençal cuisine play a role—tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, onions, and bell peppers. Usually the vegetables in ratatouille are sautéed but I thought roasting them might intensify the flavor. So I did, and then wrapped them up in a crêpe and baked it. I must say I think it turned out well.
If you don’t want to make crêpes, you can buy them in the supermarket. If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese, substitute any of your favorite melting cheeses.
1 medium eggplant, stem end cut off
2 medium zucchini, trimmed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 large plum tomatoes, quartered
1 large red bell pepper, quartered
1 large onion, quartered
1 head garlic
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 3/4 teaspoon dried
12 crêpes (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shredded fresh basil
One 6-ounce log fresh goat cheese
Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and the zucchini into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Toss with 2 teaspoons salt and place in a large colander. Set a plate on top and place the colander inside a large bowl or in the sink. Set aside at room temperature and drain for 30 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel and gently squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Arrange the eggplant and zucchini with the tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion in a shallow roasting pan large enough to fit all of the vegetables in one flat layer. Cut a 1/4-inch slice off the root of the head of garlic. (This allows for easy removal of the cloves once the garlic is soft.) Place the garlic in the center of a large square of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Bring up the corners of the foil and crimp to seal tightly. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables and add the thyme; season with salt and pepper and place in the oven with the wrapped garlic on the oven rack next to the roasting pan. Roast, stirring the vegetables often, until the onions are browned around the edges and the peppers are crinkly, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crêpes.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large bowl and cool. Unwrap the garlic and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel the peppers and cut into thin strips. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes to a food processor. Pull the garlic apart and squeeze the pulp from the individual cloves into the processor with the tomatoes. Puree until smooth.
Transfer the zucchini and eggplant to a large work surface. Chop coarsely. Remove the onion and chop finely. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl and pour on the pureed tomatoes. Add the basil and stir well to blend; season with salt and pepper. You should have about 4 cups ratatouille.
Place the goat cheese in the freezer for 10 minutes; remove and cut into twelve 1/4-inch discs. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Lay a crêpe flat on a work surface. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the filling onto the bottom half and roll into a cylinder. Continue until all the filling and crêpes have been used.
Butter a large baking dish and arrange the filled crêpes seam-side down snuggly in one flat layer. Top each crêpe with a disk of cheese. Bake until the goat cheese is lightly browned and the crêpes are crisp, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot.
Crêpes: Melt 3 tablespoons unsalted butter; combine with 1 1/4 cups milk, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 3 large eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a blender; blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl; cover and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes. Lightly brush a 9-inch crêpe pan with vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce the heat to medium. Stir the batter and ladle a scant 1/4 cup into the pan, tilting and rotating the pan until the batter coats the bottom. Cook 30 to 45 seconds until the surface of the crêpe looks set and the bottom is barely golden. Turn the crêpe and cook for 30 seconds more on the second side. Transfer the crêpes to a cooling rack as they are cooked. Makes about twelve 8-inch crêpes.
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