Shakshuka is a North African dish made with simmering tomatoes, onions, and spices with poached eggs. Here I made it using ratatouille, a dish with origins in the South of France made from summer ripened vegetables including tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers and more.
I really look forward to this time of year when the summer produce is at it's peak. With so many colors, shapes and variety of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, I cannot help but to bring home way more than I can use. I always make ratatouille, akin to being a slow simmered vegetable stew with an abundance of olive oil to give it richness.
Last summer I learned that ratatouille can be frozen without compromise in texture and quality. I made a batch of it out of necessity as the vegetables were getting too ripe. I made the vegetable stew and decided to try freezing it, not knowing how it would last. Months later in the deep of winter, I thawed it and heated it to discover it was wonderful, bringing a bit of summer to that cold winter day. I will be freezing more this summer.
Ratatouille sounds fancy, but it is simply a farmer's harvest of vegetables. I use a recipe from Jacques Pepin. Who better to learn from than the master chef himself. Below is my interpretation of Chef Pepin's classic ratatouille recipe.
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, 8-10 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium zucchini, 8-10 ounces, cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ounces yellow onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 bell peppers, cored, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
5-6 medium size ripe tomatoes, coarsely cut into pieces
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Using a large stock pot over medium heat, add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the pan. Sauté each of the cut vegetables separately, beginning with the eggplant. Cook the eggplant cubes for 6-8 minutes until softened. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to a large bowl. Add 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the pan, continue sautéing with the zucchini for 5-6 minutes, remove to the same bowl with the eggplant. Next, sauté the onions and pepper, adding 1 teaspoon of salt and a bit more olive oil, stirring together, cooking for 5-6 minutes until softened, but not browned. Remove to bowl with the other vegetables. Add in the tomatoes, chopped garlic, water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, stirring to cook for 5-6 minutes. Return all of the cooked vegetables from the bowl to the pan, adding these to the tomatoes. Stir to combine, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about an hour, stirring a few times.
Remove the cover, increase the heat to medium, cook for another 20 minutes to reduce some of the liquid. Taste for seasoning, adding in more salt and pepper as desired. Stir in the remaining olive oil, adding more if desired to richen the sauce. Serve the ratatouille hot or warm with pasta or rice, or spooned over cooked chicken or fish. Also very good simmered as the poaching liquid for eggs.