When the markets are bursting with colorful, fresh veggies, I typically buy too many. Since I can't stand to waste anything, I often turn to ratatouille to use up my extras. Ratatouille is very forgiving, up to a certain point. You've got to have tomatoes, garlic and spices. We prefer a more classic ratatouille, with peppers, squash and eggplant. I think it's the ideal side dish for grilled meats and fish, but many vegetarian friends eat this as a main dish, over pasta or polenta. Try it while the local vegetables are abundant. Cut all of your ingredients into approximately the same size, while your garlic and onions soften in the olive oil.
If you have not tried this before, I am betting it will become part of your regular side dishes!
1 T. olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, roasted, then chopped
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced
1 medium yellow "summer" squash, cut like the zucchini
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
1/3 c. V8 Vegetable juice
6 medium tomatoes, diced OR 1 11 oz. can diced tomatoes PLUS 8 halved cherry tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup packed, torn, fresh basil
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
In a LARGE nonstick pan, warm your olive oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and onions and continue chopping the veggies. (You probably will want to roast your red pepper first.) When the garlic and onion soften, add in everything else EXCEPT the basil, and bring the mixture to a bubble, stirring to break up the tomatoes and release their juice. Put on a lid and turn down the heat. Let this simmer for about 30 - 45 minutes, making sure it does not stick and burn, stirring occasionally. Lastly add the basil and pour the entire mixture into a shallow baking dish. (If your tomatoes were very juicy, and the mixture looks too runny, mix 1 T. flour w/1/2 c. water in a jar, shaking it well to dissolve the flour, and then add it to the ratatouille, stirring it in completely and bringing it back to a boil. This will help it to thicken up a little.)
Top w/cheese, if desired. At this point, you can refrigerate the dish and hold it up to 3 days or bake it off. If you need to hold it until later, be sure to set it on the counter for at least 15 minutes before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.