One of the pleasures of growing a vegetable garden is watching small yields of different vegetables ripen at the same time, each one individually not enough for a meal, but together a bowl full of fresh and nutritious. This is how peasant folk dishes were created: recipes emerged out of necessity, recipes that now grace the pages of classic cook books and test the talents of even the most accomplished chefs.
Baking mixed vegetables into a ratatouille is an art. You should know the cooking time for each individual veggie and add it to the casserole at just the right time, otherwise you start with a bowl full of deliciousness and end up with a casserole of overcooked mush. If on the other hand you add the ingredients in the right order, at just the right time, the blend of flavorful veggies cooked to perfection is a reward in itself.
For those who never cooked ratatouille, the basic principle is the following: you stroll through the garden and pick everything that ripened, including but not limited to eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, hot peppers, onions, peas, green beans, potatoes and cauliflower. You chop them up into pieces about one inch long, baste them with oil and spices and add them to the baking dish one by one in a small amount of water, according to their baking time. When the liquid reduces and the dish starts broiling on top the dish is ready for the table.
Of course no amount of literary persuasion will persuade a child that veggies are yum, so don’t feel hurt if after cooking it to perfection, the ratatouille will not be the most coveted food item on the table. Fries anyone?