Ratatouille is a traditional French dish of Provence and is usually vegetables stewed or simmered in olive oil. It can be served as a side dish or appetizer, hot or cold and with bread or artisanal crackers. I find it a very communal dish that can be placed at a picnic table or served at a holiday dinner. It satisfies your meat centric diners as well as the vegetarian ones.
Theres no better way to get your family to eat a variety of vegetables than with this grilled ratatouille salad. The layered presentation alone is drool worthy and each vegetable brings a smokey, caramelized version of itself to the dish. Served room temperature and with a garlic lemon thyme vinaigrette, it includes fresh summer zucchini, patty pan squash, eggplant, sweet orange & red bell peppers, onion and heirloom tomatoes.
This dish is the second of Kitchen Plays Inaugural six course menu that I am working through. To check out this and all the other fabulous things Kitchen Play provides to food bloggers everywhere go to http://kitchen-play.com
This dish is quite simple to pull together, it really only entails three things, slicing, grilling & stacking. I used a smaller grill, my thrifty George Foreman, so if you have an outdoor grill or a full stove top one you can reduce the cooking time by half.
What you’ll need for this dish are some vibrant late summer vegetables.
The bounty of colorful summer vegetables still available this time of year is astounding. Santa Barbara is definitely experiencing an Indian Summer with daily October temperatures in the 80’s. Seeing that this summer was basically nonexistent, having had the coldest summer in 77 years, we’ll take it.
Clean and trim the vegetables, then run them through a mandoline.
I kept the thickness of each vegetable close to or just under a 1/4 inch, so that each vegetable could hold up to grilling. Nothing is worse than coming back to the grill and finding your precious dinner half burned away and half stuck to the grill because it’s integrity was compromised by being too thin. I recommend using a mandoline over a knife so you can get more uniform slices and get through all the vegetables quickly. I used my OXO Stainless Steel Mandoline from Sur La Table (http://www.surlatable.com/home.do).
After slicing the vegetables, lay them on salted paper towels and sprinkle with more sea salt. Allow to sit and sweat for 10-12 minutes. The salt draws out some of the bitterness associated with nightshades and sometimes seen in older squash. This is the perfect time to heat up your grill. Make sure that the surfaces are clean and then oil with canola oil.
Once the vegetables have sweated, blot with paper towels to remove the excess moisture. Into a mixing bowl, add the individual vegetable with lemon thyme and olive oil, then place onto the hot grill. Surprisingly, it took about 15 minutes for each vegetable to grill to the appropriate softness. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature while you finish grilling the rest. Do not however grill the heirloom tomatoes, they are the ideal texture as is.
After everything is grilled, the stacking can begin!
start with a hearty piece of orange bell pepper as your foundation
the fresh summer zucchini was the only vegetable not close in relative size as the other vegetables, but they can easily be layered in a spiral formation so to fill in the same amount of space as the other vegetables
if you didn’t have access to the wide patty pan squash, then use the yellow italian summer squash and just layer as you did with the zucchini above
the sweet grilled onions are next
a stunning slice of heirloom tomato
then the eggplant
and top with a red bell pepper. Now you could stop the stacking at this point and drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve…or you can keep going! Following the same pattern as the first, layer yet another piece of each vegetable until you get…
If you wanted you could use a cylindrical mold so to avoid the leaning effect, i think it’s rustic to allow it to stand on its natural accord. The entire tower is drizzled with delicious vinaigrette whose base is your standard balsamic. One part balsamic, three parts olive oil, 2 cloves garlic crushed and two teaspoons of fresh lemon thyme. After a good mixing I actually placed the metal mixing bowl into a 400 degree oven for 2 minutes. The heat warmed the sharp bitterness out of the garlic and adds a nice warm touch to the salad.
If there are left overs, chop roughly and place on toasted baguette with some parm and olive oil. If its morning time, poach an egg and place it on top and you’ve got a lovely Provencal breakfast.