Our little one has just started to eat solid food. He’s sampled the usual apple sauce, bananas, green beans and sweet potatoes and enjoyed them well enough. Tonight he stepped into the land of real food with this rustic ratatouille which, with a few tweaks, also happened to be our dinner. He really, really enjoyed eating this as much as the rest of us did. Maybe it’s the sweet-savory flavor combination or the sunny yellow color that won him over. All I know if that he scarfed it right up.
This ratatouille makes a delish side dish, but you can easily make it a bit more hearty as the main event for dinner, brunch or lunch with the addition of a soft egg finished under the broiler and toasty crostini on the side. We’ve been eating more “mostly vegetarian” family meals and this this a good one with summer peppers and squash just around the corner. I would say the crostini are key, especially for little eaters like my Luca who might at least dip if all else fails.
Ratatouille with Soft Eggs and Parmegiano Reggiano
adapted from “Avec Eric” by Eric Ripert
Ingredients: 3 Red, Orange or Yellow Sweet Peppers; 1 Onion,; 4 Cloves Garlic; 3 Medium Tomatoes; 1/2 Cup Tomato Sauce or Puree; 1 Large Italian Eggplant; 3 Yellow Summer Squash; Parmegiano Reggiano; Eggs; Crusty Bread; Olive Oil; Lemon Juice/Vinegar (optional)
Ahead of time:
Poach several eggs a little under where you like them because you will finish them under the broiler. Try a minute less than what you would normally do. After poaching them, immediately move them to a bowl of cold water to stop their cooking. They can be held this way in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Here’s a handy link on poaching eggs.
- Heat several Tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add another drizzle of oil as you are cooking the vegetables if anything starts to stick.
- Chop 1 large onion into medium dice. Mince 4 large cloves of garlic. Add them to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from 3 sweet bell peppers (yellow, orange and red) and chop into medium dice. Lightly season them and add them to the pan.
- Chop 3 yellow summer squash into medium dice. [To me long-cooked zucchini are not the prettiest shade of green, so next time I’ll opt for yellow squash in this recipe]. Lightly season them and add to the pan.
- Remove half the peel of a large Italian eggplant because the peel can sometimes be bitter. Cut off alternating strips giving it a purple and white stripe effect, then cut it into 1/2″ thick slices and then into medium dice. Lightly season with salt and add to the pan.
- Chop 4 large tomatoes (or the equivalent of cherry tomatoes) into medium dice. Lightly season them with salt and add them to the pan.
- Add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or tomato puree.
- Stir and lower heat to medium-low and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt as needed, black pepper and a dash of vinegar or lemon juice if you like.
- Heat the ratatouille if made in advance. Spoon the warm ratatouille into a baking dish (or individual oven-safe bowls would be nice) and put it under the broiler until it is bubbling and piping hot.
- Dry the pre-poached eggs well and arrange them on top of the hot ratatouille, seasoning each with a little bit of salt. Drizzle the whole dish with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmegiano reggiano. Return the dish to the broiler for 30 seconds to a minute just to heat the eggs through without cooking them too much more.
- Garnish with minced parsley and serve with slices of good, rustic bread, toasted and drizzled with olive oil.