Saturday, September 3, 2016

Southern Style Skillet Ratatouille

Southern Style Skillet Ratatouille - a simple stew of diced vegetables, made with bacon drippings, the Trinity of Southern Cooking, zucchini and summer squash, tomato, eggplant, okra and fresh herbs.
Southern Style Skillet Ratatouille - a simple stew of diced vegetables, made with bacon drippings, the Trinity of Southern Cooking, zucchini and summer squash, tomato, eggplant, okra and fresh herbs.

Southern Style Skillet Ratatouille

Most folks these days seem to associate ratatouille with the Disney movie of the same name, and many may only know it from that. It actually is a real Mediterranean dish, most closely associated with France and said to have originated in Nice. The word perhaps comes from "touiller" and translates to mean something akin to "toss or stir."

Traditionally ratatouille is simply zucchini and tomatoes, with peppers, garlic and onion, sometimes sliced, sometimes cut into chunks. Somewhere along the way, eggplant was included, and though it wasn't always a part of the traditional dish, it's pretty much expected these days. I decided to make it with a dice of a variety of summer vegetables that we love in the south.

The difference between dicing and chopping, is that chopped veggies have very little continuity in size and cut. When sauteed, they sort of just melt into the skillet, generally as intended. Diced vegetables, on the other hand, are uniformly square, and hold their texture more once sauteed, resulting in a completely different texture and flavor from sliced or even chunks of vegetables.

With a dish like this, a food processor sure comes in handy and I am loving this dicing kit attachment I picked up for my KitchenAid awhile back. I can hardly wait to bust up on it for some soups and stews, when fall and winter weather arrives in the Deep South. I don't know about you, but I'm certainly ready for it after this loooong, hot summer that seems to keep going on, forever and ever and ever and ever...

Although I'm a huge fan of olive oil and I do use it all the time, I've subbed in some bacon drippings and butter for it here in the spirit of the south, and used the full out Trinity of Southern Cooking - sweet onion, bell pepper and celery.

Of course, summer squash is common in the south so we've used both summer squash and zucchini, along with tomato, a little eggplant and some okra, if you like, along with some fresh herbs, though dried will stand in just fine if that's what you have.

Truth is, this is a very versatile dish, so use whatever your own favorite vegetables are. I love this side dish - ratatouille, with a little southern flair! Fry the bacon, saute the trinity, add in the other cubed veggies, a splash of wine, some seasonings and fresh herbs. Done and done! Here's the basics.

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Recipe: Southern Style Skillet Ratatouille

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 20 min
Total time: 30 min
Yield: About 4 to 6 servings

  • 2 slices bacon, drippings reserved
  • 1 tablespoon butter, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups diced Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • 1 cup diced sweet bell pepper (red, green, yellow and/or orange)
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, unpeeled, rinsed and diced
  • 2 medium yellow summer squash, unpeeled, rinsed and diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced, all juices retained
  • 2 tablespoons white wine or chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup sliced okra, optional
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Creole or Cajun seasoning, or to taste, optional
  • 2 tablespoons torn fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Cook bacon to crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside; once cool chop. To the pan drippings add 1/2 tablespoon of butter and the onion, bell pepper and celery, cook over medium for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the remaining butter and eggplant and cook until it begins to soften; add zucchini and squash and cook and stir 3 minutes longer. Add tomatoes, wine and okra, cover and reduce heat to medium low, cooking another 4 to 6 minutes or until squash and eggplant are fully tender.

Taste and season with salt, pepper and Creole/Cajun seasoning, if using. Just before serving, toss with herbs and add bacon, reserving a pinch for garnish. Eat as is as a main dish, side dish, toss it with pasta, spoon over crusty bread, or stuff into a omelet.

Cook's Notes: For a wetter consistency, add an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce with the diced tomatoes and their juices. Substitute one (14.5 ounce) can undrained, diced tomatoes. May also substitute extra virgin olive oil for the bacon drippings for a meatless meal.


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Posted by on September 3, 2016
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