Ratatouille "chez les Meron"

This is a staple vegetable dish in the South of France that is world famous and for the good reason! When the gorgeous summer vegetables and fragrant herbs that grow in abundance are at their best then this is a simple and splendid way to enjoy them as a main or side dish to accompany the summer BBQ.

Like with every popular, regional dish there could be tons of recipes depending on the family, exact geographical locations and personal preferences, here I present you the one that our family loves. Many summer evenings we have had it with a nice grilled sausage, some excellent crusty baguette and some local rose wine nicely chilled while on holiday in the South of France. We also enjoy it in winter in New Zealand where it reminds us of the taste of Provence!

The secret of this recipe (which is the closest to the authentic - if not the same ;) is that you have to fry each veggie separately first and then cook it together gently and for long in the fragrant tomato sauce. 

Ingredients

1 big onion 4-5 tbsp of olive oil 2 big (provencal type) or 3-4 stander bell pepper (can be different colors) 4 medium sized zucchini 2 eggplants 2 cans of good quality crushed tomato or the equal quantity from fresh chopped tomatoes 1,5 tbsp of provencal herbs (herbes de provence) 4-5 big garlic cloves cleaned and crushed salt and pepper

Method

Clean and chop all the vegetables in medium sized pieces. In a big pot fry the chopped onions with the cut bell peppers with 2-3 tbsp of good olive oils and with a bit of salt on medium heat. When the pepper softens and starts coloring take them out in a big bowl. Add a bit of oil in the pot if necessary and fry the zucchini the same way then take them out also into the bowl. Repeat the same with the eggplants (do not be afraid if they "drink up" the oil, you can add a bit more, but they will soften up anyway over time, just keep stirring so that they do not burn and stick to the bottom). When the eggplants have softened, add back to the pot all the other veggies then the tomato, provencal herbs and the crushed garlic and salt and pepper as needed. Cook it on small heat for about an hour, hour and a half. Stir from time to time to be sure that it does not burn at the bottom (you can add a touch of water your mix is too dry, but the veggies will still let out some juices and you do not want a soup consistency!) While it is cooking check the seasoning (salt, pepper, herbs and even the garlic) and adjust if it is needed for you personal taste. It is ready when all the veggies are nice and soft (you still have to have the pieces though, it should not be too soft either as a puree!) and its sauce has the nice consistency and the well balanced flavor of the veggies and herbs! You can eat it with a slice of rustic style bread or use it as a side dish with meat, fish or eggs! (Freezes well)
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