Makes 6 to 8 servings. Adapted from a recipe by Sir Robin Hixson in the Delta Queen Cookbook (LSU Press, 2012).
Ratatouille originated in southern France’s Provençe region, where produce is abundant. It is cooked in stages and layered, resulting in a dish with rich texture.
2 pounds eggplant, peeled and diced
3 medium zucchini (1½ lbs. total), peeled and diced
Salt ¾ cup olive oil, divided
2 onions (1 lb. total), thinly sliced
3 bell peppers (1½ lbs. total), any color, seeded and cut into thin strips
3 large tomatoes (1½ lbs. total), peeled, seeded, and diced
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic (3 minced and 1 whole, peeled)
2 bay leaves
1 small bouquet garni (fresh parsley, thyme, and oregano tied together in a cheesecloth bag)
1. Place eggplant and zucchini in separate nonreactive bowls (glass or stainless steel). Sprinkle lightly with salt and set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Heat half of the olive oil in a skillet. Add onions and cook until onions are soft but not brown. Remove onions from skillet. Add bell peppers to skillet and sauté, then remove from skillet.
3. Drain eggplant. Add to skillet and sauté, then remove from skillet. Drain zucchini. Add to skillet and sauté, then remove from skillet.
4. Pour remaining olive oil into a heavy-bottomed pot. Add layers of vegetables in the following order: onion, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Add minced and whole garlic, bay leaves, and bouquet garni. Cover and cook for 1 hour over gentle heat, being careful not to let vegetables stick to bottom of pot. Serve hot or cold.