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Every August, I spend a few weeks going a little bit crazy for ratatouille. There is something magical that happens when you combine eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, garlic and whatever herbs you happen to have around.
Part of the reason I’m so fond of this late-summer dish is that it’s one I grew up eating. My mom often made it when we were young with produce straight from the garden. Sometimes she served it chunky, but more often, she’d push it through a food mill and call it soup. It’s funny how much more willing we were to eat it when it was smooth and without any visible bits of veggie.
My Grandma Bunny was also a huge fan of ratatouille. She frequently made it in a large skillet, topped it with a layer of grated Parmesan cheese and popped it under the broiler until the cheese bubbled and browned. Served with chicken thighs marinated in lemon, garlic and olive oil, it was regular dinner for our extended family.
One of the things that I’ve struggled with when making ratatouille for dinner is finding the perfect protein to serve with it. The beauty of this dish is that it can be a one-pan meal. If you have to cook up a bunch of additional components, it loses that element of ease.
Rachael Ray, however, has come to the rescue. In her version, she has you poach eggs right in the cooking ratatouille. Suddenly, you get your vegetables and protein right in the same pan. Ratatouille with Poached Eggs and Garlic Croutons, I think I love you. You are the perfect end-of-summer Weekender meal and I will be making you again.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— In this recipe, Rachael has you salt and drain the eggplant before cooking it. I’ve made this dish both ways and taste no difference. So if you’re in a hurry, I give you permission to skip that step.
— If you have a summer squash hater in your family (like I do in mine), feel free to leave it out.
— Ratatouille is one of those amazing dishes that actually improves after a night in the fridge. If you’re having a dinner party, make your life easier and cook it down the day before.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.