Quick Recipes and Easy

What is Ratatouille?

Q: So, what exactly is ratatouille?

A: Made up of all sorts of vegetables, ratatouille is most comparable to a vegetable stew. A versatile dish in its own right: it can be served hot, cold, or even lukewarm. Call it an appetizer, call it your main course, whatever you want to call it, it’s a classic French dish, namely from the Provencal region. Some serve it with meat and potatoes, others on a bed of rice. Ratatouille bears no burden of restrictions. And for all you leftover lovers, many contend that ratatouille really tastes better the day after it is cooked. Chocolate and Zucchini even calls it an “ideal make-ahead dish.” So try it out!

Q: Ok, fine, then how do I prepare it?

A: Its main ingredients are usually tomatoes, aubergines (French for eggplants), courgettes (French for zucchinis), onions, garlic, and some variety of bell peppers. Some cook it with meat, but many French chefs note that it is vital to prepare all of the vegetables separately before adding them to the aggregate stew. French chef Phillipe Aubin will back me up on that, but he also claims that aubergines (eggplants if you recall) are not used in the “authentic Ratatouille Nicoise.” But after you’ve chose which vegetables you plot to use and have prepared them, you sauté them all together in an olive oil with some salt, pepper, and a bay leaf for extra flavor. Fine Cooking writers will hit you over the head if you simmer or boil the vegetables together. Ratatouille should not be mushy!

Q: Where did the name come from?

A: We have established that the name is clearly French, but there seems to be some disagreement in the name’s actual etymology. The most reliable source to speak on the matter, Merriam Webster Dictionary, claims the word is a “blend of ratouiller, to disturb, shake, and tatouiller, to stir.” Most accept that the word touiller, to stir, influences the second component, but the Wikipedia entry for ratatouille says that “rata” was French army slang for chunky stew. Clifford Wright agrees!

Q: When did the thought come about?
A: The first muttering of the word ratatouille happened in 19th century Provence, France. If you find out who came up with it, let me know!

Q: What other fascinating facts can you tell me about Ratatouille?

A: Well, you might be excited to know (if you’re reading this during the summer) that ratatouille is often prepared during or at the end of the summer, as most of its vegetable components are in season then. That might also be part of the reasoning behind the release date of the Disney movie. This recipe will prove it: summer ratatouille. Also, it was originally considered a poor farmer’s dish, according to Aubin (referenced earlier), as it requires no particularly expensive ingredients.

I hope I answered all your questions, if you have any more, feel free to let me know and I’ll do my best to find out!

Oh, and don’t forget to try out Kitchen Garden Ratatouille for a recipe more unique in the way that it incorporates cheesy polenta into the mix.

Hillary Marshak is a writer and editor for Recipe4Living.com, an up and coming recipe sharing Website. For more articles like this, or for a large collection of recipes, visit recipe4living.com”target=_blank Recipe4Living!

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