Every once in awhile I get in a side dish rut. I usually have my proteins on lock down, but the side dishes are the real hard part! This past summer when the weather would be too hot for cooking, it was all too easy to whip out our favorite bagged salad to toss together with a side of grilled chicken or steak and call it good. But now that it's winter and we actually need to fire up the oven, things get a little challenging!
I kid I kid. It's really not hard whatsoever to throw together an easy side dish. The problem, though, is not difficulty; it's inspiration!
My go-tos are usually Blasted Broccoli or Roasted Garlic Green Beans. Essentially any vegetable that's roasted. You simply cannot go wrong! But lately I've been feeling the urge to fill up my plate with vegetables a different way.
That's when I was reminded of the ever-so classic ratatouille method. I remember when I had ratatouille for the first time, actually. I was in London studying abroad for the summer and staying with a host family; a single mom and her daughter. The mom loved the cook and especially loved to cook meals that were healthy, thrifty and hearty. Essentially, she was my kind of woman.
She whipped up ratatouille one night with some sort of protein that I cannot remember at all, which tells you everything right there. Ratatouille is so comforting, so memorable, that you hardly need anything else at all to go with it. It's really the star of the show!
I fell in love with the rustic nature of it. Ratatouille, though the name might suggest differently, is really as simple as it gets. And yet, because it's simply a slow cooked stew of vegetables, it tastes like home and love.
So I was so pleased to be reminded of this great food memory and to be inspired to create my own version of it. Mine didn't stray too far from a classic ratatouille recipe, with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers and tons of fresh basil. What really made mine special, I think, was fennel seeds for that classic anise flavor, coriander for a slightly sweet, nutty twist, red pepper flakes for a zip and a splash of white balsamic vinegar to bring out the acidity in this great vegetable medley.
You're going to love cooking this side dish just as much as you're going to love eating it. The warm, inviting aromas that will fill your kitchen will be unreal! But the dish itself is so simple yet so elegant, it's soon to grace your dinner plates on the regular, I promise.
P.S. This is great leftover. Similar to pasta where all of the flavors just marinate and congeal to only intensify, this ratatouille does just that. You will for sure have leftovers, so look forward to dishing this up alongside your favorite protein for dinner all week!
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 zucchini squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups (about 6 small ones) ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add remaining olive oil and increase heat to medium high heat. Add eggplant and stir to combine. Saute to cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini and peppers and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally for about 12 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in white balsamic vinegar, fennel seed, coriander, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and immediately stir in basil. Serve warm – enjoy!