I made some ratatouille last week at my parents house. It seemed like a brilliant way to use up the bounty from their prolific vegetable garden, and was absolutely delicious. What wasn’t so brilliant was the hours that stove was on, turning my parents home into a giant oven.
With a continuous procession of vegetables coming off their vines and into the kitchen, I wondered if there was a way to make a ratatouille salad that still captures the essence of Summer while passing on the heat stroke. My first idea was to quick pickle the vegetables and turn it into a salad. But whenever I decide to alter a classic, I first stop to think about the characteristics that make a dish what it is.
Since ratatouille’s soul lies inextricably intertwined with the non-enzymatic browning that Louis-Camille Maillard first described, my pickled salad idea failed to keep true to the essence of ratatouille.
The thing is, since eggplants don’t pickle especially well, I’d actually planned to marinate and grill those separately. When it became clear that pickling wasn’t going to get me the sweet complex flavors I was looking for, I decided to just grill all the vegetables.
First I marinated the vegetables in plenty of olive oil, garlic, thyme and balsamic vinegar (it is a salad after all). Then the thick cut veggies go on the grill until they’re caramelized on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. Cutting the vegetables relatively thick is important because if you cut them too thin, they tend to dry out by the time they get nice grill marks.
Once done, you just arrange them on a plate and drizzle with fresh basil olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. It’s delicious warm, but just as good at room temperature, or even chilled. Perfect for those 100+ degree days!
Grilled Ratatouille Salad
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 340 grams (12 ounces) baby zucchini, halved lengthwise
- 340 grams (12 ounces) small Japanese eggplant, quartered lengthwise
- 340 grams (12 ounces) cherry tomatoes
- 340 grams (12 ounces) onions, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rings and separated
- 15 g basil
- 1/2 clove garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- In a small food processor or blender, add 1/2 cup of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, the thyme, 2 cloves of garlic, and the salt. Process until smooth.
- Put the zucchini and eggplant in one bowl and toss with half of the marinade. Put the cherry tomatoes and onions in another bowl and toss with the other half of the marinade.
- Wash out the food processor or blender, dry and add the basil, 1/2 a clove of garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Blend until bright green and smooth. If your blender is too big, you might need to double the amount of everything to make it work.
- Heat a grill until hot and then grill the eggplant and zucchini on two sides until they have nice grill marks and are tender, but still juicy.
- For the tomatoes and onions use a grill basket to hold them over the grill so they don't fall through the gaps. If you're using an indoor grill pan, you can cook them directly on the pan.
- Arrange the vegetables on a platter, sprinkle with your favorite finishing salt and drizzle on the basil oil. Serve hot, room temperature, or cold.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.