How to Make These Vegetables Taste Like Candy
Let’s do this thing. Photo credit: Getty Images
As a kid, I loathed vegetables. Iceberg lettuce, boiled-to-death cabbage, and not-quite-baked-enough potatoes dominated our Irish-American dinner table (although my mom was, and is, a crack fish cook).
It wasn’t till my 20s, at a friend’s birthday picnic, that I tried a veggie dish that really, truly floored me. A trained cook and food writer, he’d spent all afternoon cooking down the best August produce (eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, and summer squash. He packed the results into a jar, passing it around with a spoon. And everyone who tasted it looked astonished.
Have you ever had great ratatouille? The restaurant version typically pales in comparison to the one you can make yourself. The base comprises garlic, shallots, sweet red peppers, and the most fragrant tomatoes at the market. Texture and an extra hit of sweetness come from lightly caramelized eggplant and zucchini, which you fold in right at the end.
You’ll spend a few hours cooking it, yes, but thanks to that caramelization, all the vegetables are the best they can be—the going-to-prom-decked-out versions of themselves.
This ratatouille is straight-up vegetable candy, designed to convert former vegetable haters like me.
If you’re wise, you’ll make it before the summer is out. Save a little batch and pop it in the freezer. “It’ll still be awesome in the dead of winter,” wrote the birthday boy, who gave us his recipe below, “when tomatoes taste about as good as tennis balls.” (As it saved one Valentine’s Day, we can vouch for that.)
It ain’t pretty, but it sure is tasty. Photo credit: Alex Van Buren
1 head garlic, minced
3 shallots, minced
1 large onion (about 12 ounces), minced
½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil (yes, that much. Summertime is living it up time.)
A couple more glugs of olive oil. Hell, just keep the bottle handy.
Salt and pepper
2 large red peppers, puréed in the food processor
4 pounds of very good regular field tomatoes, or fancy heirlooms if you’re rich. Just make sure they’re the kind you eat a piece of … and then involuntarily eat another piece of a minute later. Oh, and purée them in the food processor too.
2½ pounds of summer squash and zucchini, ½-inch dice
1½ pounds of eggplant, diced into ½-inch cubes
Thyme and basil to taste