Thursday, December 6, 2012

Rustic Ratatouille

A few years ago, I was introduced to the idea of an earthbox.  You can see one here.  The idea is great (especially for dry/hot climates such as ours).  The reservoir in the bottom holds the water so the plants can suck up what they need from the roots AND you reduce evaporation.  Brilliant.

Problem is, they're expensive, and I'm cheap.  So I managed to use a big Rubbermaid tub, a small rotary saw, and a plastic colander to cobble up some homemade ones.  We've had lush and abundant herbs every summer since (despite our benign neglect).  This year in particular our basil has gone nuts.  As I type, it is the 5th of December and we STILL have fresh basil by the handful.  Unreal.

In any event, I've spent a lot of time over the last few months trying to find new and exciting ways to use fresh basil.  Ratatouille is not exactly new, but my version is slightly inauthentic ... but still delicious.  The potatoes make it hearty, but it's still quite healthy (especially important during the season of rich food).  Oh, and it's also crazy easy.  A little chopping, open a couple of cans ... voila, you have a beautiful dinner.  So one of these hectic holiday evenings, whip up a batch of this ratatouille and serve with a simple salad and a loaf of crusty bread.  And maybe a bottle of pinot noir.

Rustic Ratatouille

2 zucchini (about 1/2 a pound), cut in 1-inch pieces
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
small yellow potatoes (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbs. fresh rosemary
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt (divided)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil (divided)
cooking spray
1 can whole tomatoes, chopped and juice reserved
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 cans chick peas (drained and rinsed)
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil

Heat oven to 450.  In a bowl, toss zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 2 Tbs. water, and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Spread on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray, place in the oven, and roast about 25 minutes.  I found I *just* had time to chop the veg while the oven preheated.  (You can roast the veg before moving on to the next part.)

In a large pot, saute onions and garlic in remaining olive oil; cook until onions are soft.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, three more minutes.  Add tomatoes, chickpeas, and remaining salt.  Add roasted vegetables.  Stir in vinegar.  If the veg has cooled, make sure you keep the ratatouille on medium low until the whole stew is heated through.

Serve with a hearty bread, and you have one delicious winter meal.


  1. Wendy, this is a beautiful dish. Nice color and texture. I adore basil, so I'm looking forward to this! I love your earthbox idea - as rustic as your dish! :)

    Daryl / Avery

  2. I'm so glad you posted this, Annie. This time of year a lot of people are looking around for dishes to serve when vegetarian family members come for the holidays. One of my friends who has a vegetarian brother has the most hilarious stories about the disasters they've concocted with him in mind.

    ~ Krista

  3. I have an "earthbox" in old concrete planters on my front porch, probably as old as my house which dates to 1922. Love having fresh herbs though I've found oregano is a space hog and crowds out other things. My basil bit the dust before I harvested it--guess I let a couple of cold nights sneak up on me. Recipe sounds great.