Very simple ratatouille recipe it took a lifetime to get it right

It was ratatouille, Eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onion, and pepper in a compote in southern France, taught me the meaning of “umami”. I didn’t know the word that I first encountered this dish when I was 10 years old, but I had to come across it a few years later and look it up, it’s Ratatouille. Something irresistible.

I always remember the first time I tried Ratatouille on a muddy night in July, beside a hill covered with crab grass overlooking Burial Hill Beach on the Long Island Sound coast of Greens Farms, Connecticut. The dark sky spewed out. With red comets and golden flowers; I winked every time, waiting for the fireworks to explode in my chest. Occasionally it smelled like gunpowder, but above all, the laid-back breeze brought the scent of burnt meat from a dozen barbecues.

“This is the best summer food cheat I’ve found.”

But what’s even more exciting is the discovery of the contents of the Burkeby family’s spruce picnic basket. The object itself was attractive, solid and very clean. Inside was a real silverware wrapped in a red and white tartan napkin, which would later be associated with a Parisian bistro.

My mother and Mrs. Burkeby grew up together in Boston, but along the way their thoughts on what constitutes a good picnic were divided. We met to see the fireworks every year. Burkeby ran up from Stanford with his son Dana. On one of these occasions, I first sipped the gazpacho, chilled it from a thermos and poured it into a sturdy glass. At other picnics, I tasted fleshy green Sicilian olives, scraped as much fennel seed-flavored salami as possible before my mother stared at me, and carefully grabbed a small putty studded with bright green pistachios.

My family’s cherry red coleslaw usually had onion dips for chips, chicken marinated in bottled Italian dressing for barbecue, potato salad with a slight sulfur scent, and perhaps coleslaw in the supermarket. rice field. “Why does Burkeby eat so much fun?” I asked. “Mrs. Burkeby doesn’t have four children to feed,” she replied crossingly. Mr. Burkeby was a kind person and a textile designer. His tennis-loving wife was short and thin. They shared their love for travel and good food.

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The following year, I moved inland and lost the privilege of the beach, so the last time I had a picnic with him was when I finally tasted the ratatouille. In the cup, my dad repeated the words over and over in a falsetto voice on his way home. Mr. Burkeby was spooning some into my paper plate. “Alec, I think you might like this,” he said. All the forks were intriguingly different: the eggplants were spicy, the tomatoes were pleasantly acidic, and the onions and peppers were sweet. Ratatouille tasted a deep, mellow, sensual, and very satisfying melody, like the jazz music that Mr. Burkeby played on a large Zenith mobile radio before the fireworks began.

I wanted to cook it. A few years later, when I first ate it, I found that using frozen or canned vegetables didn’t work. My next attempt when I was in the third grade in London and needed a cheap main course for a friend wasn’t as good as Mrs. Burkeby. You need to use olive oil. Since then, I’ve cooked ratatouille dozens of times according to countless recipes, and finally I’ve arrived at a place where I can proudly serve ratatouille to the (late) Mr. and Mrs. Burkeby.

My version is a bit unorthodox. Instead of frying the vegetables, which is the tradition of this dish, they are roasted in the oven under the guidance of British food writer Elizabeth David. At the suggestion of a lovely woman, yo-yo, who runs a farm near my house in Blauzac, southern France, adds coarsely ground coriander seeds, sometimes with a sweet, resinous flavor. Take out.

I love freshly made ratatouille and it is served in lukewarm water, but you may like it even more the next day. It’s the best summer food cheat I’ve found. Toss pasta and salted capers, or sliver caper berries rinsed in cold water. I use it to decorate salmon, mix it with couscous salad with fresh mint, and push a spoonful into a goat knob or a grated Gruyere omelet. The happiest and most forgiving Mediterranean turmoil, it always illuminates the table.

Robrano’s new memoir, “The Table in My Place,” was published by Mariner Books.

Check out the new WSJ recipes page to find and find all the recipes.

Ratatouille combines peak-season vegetables to create a sweet meal that’s perfect for serving in lukewarm water outdoors or in a Mediterranean atmosphere.

Food styling by JENNY HUANG and TYNA HOANG of The Wall Street Journal, prop styling by SOPHIES TRANGIO


  • One large eggplant (1 lb), trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of fine table salt
  • ¼ cup of fruity extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons for light rain
  • 2 large zucchini, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, 1 inch
  • 1 red bell pepper, sow seeds and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sow seeds and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 pieces of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red onions, peel and cut into 1 inch wedges
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed, coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
  • Ripped fresh basil leaves ½ cup


  1. Put eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with high-quality table salt. Toss the eggplant and leave it for at least 45 minutes with occasional stirring to drain the bitter juice.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour olive oil into a large rectangular baking dish. Put zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, yellow peppers, garlic and onion wedges in a pan, add olive oil and apply well. Sprinkle chopped rosemary, sea salt and coarsely ground coriander seeds on the vegetables and toss again. Lightly sprinkle with olive oil.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, then add tomatoes and stir. Continue baking for another 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Remove from the oven and serve with lukewarm water with a torn basil garnish.

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Very simple ratatouille recipe it took a lifetime to get it right

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