Food Co-op Leftovers: a Recipe for Ratatouille

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Photo by Fotolia/Marco Mayer
I helped myself to the assorted vegetables, picking three medium-sized onions, eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, and green peppers — fifteen in all. The dish I cooked with them is a vegetable stew from the French Provence region, called a ratatouille.

The food co-op is packed with food … but whattaya do when the gang doesn’t all show up to
get their orders? Stephen Salaff laid down a leftover recipe idea in a recent piece for the San Francisco Good Times.

One Saturday afternoon in March, I met a bunch of people
standing around a parked station wagon. It seems that the
wagon had returned to Berkeley from early morning shopping
at the San Francisco Farmer’s Market with a load of
vegetables. The people were part of the Food Conspiracy,
which provides food to neighborhood groups at wholesale
prices. One of them said that some co-conspirators had
failed to collect their food at the assigned hour, and so
it was decided to give away all the extras right out of the
station wagon. This illustrates one of the problems of such
a food distribution system — the members have to get to the
distribution point on time.

I helped myself to the assorted vegetables, picking three
medium-sized onions, eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, and
green peppers — fifteen in all. The dish I cooked with them
is a vegetable stew from the French Provence region, called
a ratatouille. It is, in one or another variant, a natural
and colorful way to utilize a windfall of fresh vegetables.

Ratatouille Recipe

To make a ratatouille for six to eight persons, you will
need, in addition to the above vegetables, two cloves of
chopped garlic, at least one-half cup of olive oil, and one
or more  tomato spices, like basil and chopped parsley.

Here’s what you do with each vegetable:

Onions: slice thinly
Green Peppers: halve, remove core and seeds, and slice into
thin strips (julienne slices)
Eggplant: cut into one quarter inch rounds, and then into
one inch squares; no need to peel
Zucchini: peel and slice into half-inch pieces
Tomatoes: quarter

Heat one-half cup of olive oil in a wide, heavy pan. Saute
the onions and chopped garlic until the onions are soft but
not brown, and then add the green peppers, eggplants, and
zucchini. Pour a little more olive oil over the top, cover,
and cook gently for 40 minutes. (Feel free to vary the
proportions of the vegetables used, according to what you
have on hand. Bear in mind that eggplants soak up a lot of
olive oil; if you have fewer eggplants you may cut down on
the oil). Add the quartered tomatoes and your spices. Cook
20 minutes more, or until the vegetables are quite soft but
not mushy. The texture should be that of a thick, coarse
puree. Uncover and continue to heat 5 to 10 minutes to reduce
the amount of liquid remaining in the pan.

In a good ratatouille, each of the vegetables is
distinguishable by sight and taste, so proceed gently
without overcooking. This dish can be served hot or cold,
and if you add a little more oil, it takes kindly to
reheating.