It was feelin’ real summer-like in San Francisco up until recently, but no longer can we deny it: it is winter. The Bay Area seems to have skipped right over autumn, changing from shades of blue and green to gray and white overnight. I’m spending my evenings puttering around the kitchen, swaddled in a fleece plaid robe and leaving a trail of snotty, crumpled tissues in my wake.
While these days, my cold-weakened body only wants soup and carbs, my mind still yearns for all the bright, delicious dishes of summer. I’ve been meaning to write about one of my very favorites for years now: ratatouille. This fantastically simple stew showcases the abundance of produce available in August, cooking and caramelizing it into silky, savory richness.
While ratatouille can often be an exercise in patience (see Julia Child’s labor of love), I’ve been sticking with Alice Waters’ streamlined version. Some of the vegetables are still cooked separately so that they achieve maximal doneness, but the rest are layered onto one another, resulting in complex, fully married flavors. I’ve often taken many liberties with the recipe, tweaking it to fit the contents of my pantry and CSA box with ease. The final dish can be served at any temperature and with nearly any cuisine, as a side or main — a perfect technicolor representative of summer’s bounty. In fact, even in the dead of winter, I’d love a big warm bowl of this ratatouille.
Alice Waters’ ratatouille
I’ve made this recipe so many times now, I’ve nearly memorized it by heart. Fine, I lied. While that might not be necessarily true, I can make a pretty mean version relying mostly on my own intuition and muscle memory. The beauty of this recipe is that it’s nearly impossible to mess up, given that you use excellent produce. After all, how can you go wrong with aromatics and summer squash?