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Now that life has appeared to have slowed down a smidge, it’s been nice to get back to doing the things that make me happy: wine tasting and playing around in the kitchen tweaking old recipes and creating new ones.
Before I dive in head first with this ratatouille recipe, we’re got some wine features on the docket—although we met the lovely people behind The Farm Winery back in May, we’re finishing up a piece for the blog that will appear here very soon. We also hope to get out to Hearst Ranch Winery and Rabbit Ridge Winery before the summer is over. If you have recently tried or heard about a winery from the Paso Robles region and think we should review them, be sure to drop us a line.
Can you remember the first time you had a particular dish and it’s become a memory so engrained in your memory it’s now a part of your DNA? Several years ago, long before I met my husband, I was dating somewhat of a culinary snob. Everything he cooked was cooked with precision and intention. His ratatouille recipe was meant to invoke a sense of memory. Being that I had never been to the Mediterranean, my memories associated with this particular dish involve a hot summer evening, bistro lights delicately hanging beneath the trees in his back yard with the sound of the waterfall circulating the water in his swimming pool. Knowing him, there was probably some mood makin’ music on, but I was too overwhelmed to notice.
If I’m being completely honest, I was more impressed by the wine he served with his ratatouille. I had never heard of a Rhone-style wine before, and he explained to me why he chose a blended wine, composed of earthy flavors such as Mourvedre and Cinsault. He might as well have been speaking another language because it went right over my head and all I tasted was dirt. At first, when he kept using the word "rhone" I was thinking of a horse with rhone-style markings. Oops!
Flash-forward several years and rhone-style wines are becoming some of my favorite wines. And lucky for me because living in Sunset Magazine's best wine country town means I have literally hundreds of rhone-style wines to choose from the dozens of local wineries, who each put their own unique spin on what they think a rhone should taste like. One of the best thing about rhone-style wines: they go great with Mediterranean cuisine! Depending if you’re going for a meatless vibe or cooking lamb, there’s a blend to compliment just about every recipe, red or white. The rhone you’ll select will have a lot to do with what you’re serving your ratatouille with, however.
Feeling a bit melancholy with the events in Nice, France I decided to pull out the big guns: a seemingly challenging ratatouille recipe to enjoy with one of my favorite rhone style wines: 2011 Le Mistral. With flavors and aromas of red fruit and dried herbs, it’s the perfect pairing for this ratatouille recipe. It’s not over powered by the tomatoes and highlights in-season eggplant fresh from the garden.
- 1 eggplant, about 1 pound
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise into narrow strips
- 3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into slices about 1/3 inch thick
- 4 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise and seeds removed (optional)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil or rosemary, which is what I recommend with Le Mistral
- 1/3 cup capers, rinsed and chopped (optional)
Cut the eggplant into chunks about 1 inch thick, use a mandolin slicer if you have one. Combine the eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt, then let drain for about 30 minutes. Gently pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt and several grinds of pepper.
Arrange about one-fourth each of the eggplant, onion, bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes in a layer in the bottom of a Dutch oven. Spread one-fourth of the tomato paste mixture over the top. Repeat to make 3 more layers each of the vegetables and the tomato paste mixture. Cover and cook on low-heat for 4 hours, stirring a few times if possible. The vegetables should be tender and aromatic.
Alternatively, this ratatouille recipe may be cooked in a slow cooker. Simply follow the assembly instructions and cook on low for 6 hours, or until the vegetables are tender.
WHAT TO SERVE IT WITH: grilled rosemary lamb is my personal favorite, as is veal. If you’re looking for carbs, look no further than couscous or pasta. Don’t forget the bread to soak up the juices!