Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chili provençale aka ratatouillaise

Do I need to be reminded that this blog is called Cooking + Praying? I’ve been much more focused on praying (and life in general) than on cooking. There’s a reason for that and I’ll confess if you promise not to tell anyone. I’m trying to lose weight. Again. I lost it and it found its way home. So I’m just eating protein and vegetables. No carbs, no sugar. Not even fruit . . . sigh . . . and she says that at the height of peach season. I have discovered that croissants and pizza and pasta and jelly doughnuts and beer are all on the NO list. No barbequed potato chips with sour cream. (I think I’m going to cry.) There is no joy in Mudville. Actually after a couple of weeks I feel like I have the jelly doughnut and beer monkeys off my back. But if they arrived at my door, begging me to let them in, I probably would not resist too hard.

So I’ve been hoping that some delicious recipe would come into my life—anything that does not include another hard-boiled egg, another hunk of roasted chicken, or another leaf of spinach. So in pursuit of this recipe today I went to the farmers market and then to the grocery store to get the ingredients. I cooked the recipe exactly as written but for a couple of deviations. I couldn’t find harissa so I used some Indonesian spicy salsa sort of thing I found at Trader Joe’s. Oh, and I doubled it—more about that later.
My comments on the recipe:
(1) I used fresh tomatoes but I refused to peel them. The produce alone cost me over $30. I think next time I’ll used good canned tomatoes. It’s not worth the effort and the expense to use fresh tomatoes unless you have a garden and an excess of tomatoes. In the early cooking it appears that the peels are beginning to separate from the tomato pulp and they are floating around in the mixture. Do you think I would actually stoop so low as to pick them out with my fingers?

(2) I doubled the recipe because I want to bring a batch to my sister tomorrow. It grew and grew as I added ingredients. There is a boatload of zucchini and eggplant in this recipe. It grew out of my largest Dutch oven so I had to put it in my big soup pot—at least it fit in the oven where it is now resting at 350 degrees for over 2 hours.
(3) I didn’t peel the red bell pepper either. I roasted them like the recipe says but I struggled to peel them. I know there’s a technique but I forget what it is and I was too up to my elbows in kitchen mayhem to look it up. The pepper peels are floating in the mixture along with the tomato peels. Now I know how to remove them.
(4) My kitchen is a mess and it’s hot so I left it all, hoping that some kind soul will come into my house and clean the kitchen. Just in case you want to attempt this yourself at home, the photo is of my kitchen at this very moment. I’m afraid to go back, even though the beeper is telling me it’s time to stir the pot.

(5) The good news is I tasted it, albeit prematurely before the flavors can really mingle, and it’s delicious.

Kristin Espinasse calls the recipe “ratatouillaise” but in my mind it’s kind of like Chili Provençale. The following is quoted from her site, link below:

The dish has two secret (and untraditional) ingredients — a generous drizzle of honey, which heightens the tomatoes — and a dash of something spicy — I used harissa. Herbs, sautéed onions and ground beef join the vegetables in the covered casserole before it’s placed in the oven for a slow simmer. In the photo above, you can see the “raw” state — the vegetables still bright and crunchy. After a couple of hours, they turned soft and creamy, rich with a deep, meaty savor. Paired with couscous, this made a superb Sunday dinner — with leftovers for another weeknight meal (over pasta or soft polenta). The best part? It leaves your house smelling like a summer kitchen in Provence.


The word “ratatouillaise” is a hybrid of ratatouille and bolognaise (spelled the French way).

Olive oil
2 red bell peppers
3 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 large zucchini, peeled in stripes, and cut into 1.5-inch chunks
3 small eggplant, peeled in stripes, and cut into 1.5-inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon harissa
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Cut the red peppers in half and remove the seeds. Line a baking sheet with parchment pepper and arrange the peppers on it. Roast the peppers at 400ºF until their skins have blistered, about 20 minutes. Peel the peppers and slice them into thin strips.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil and sauté the onions and garlic until they’ve softened and start to turn golden. Add the ground beef, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon. When the meat has cooked, stir in the tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a (separate) sauté pan, warm a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high flame, and then add the zucchini and a dash of pepper. Don’t overcrowd the pan — cook in batches, if necessary. Sauté the zucchini until gently softened and starting to turn brown, about five minutes. Add the zucchini to the meat mixture. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini, then the eggplant cubes. Add them to the meat mixture. Stir the red pepper strips into the meat mixture, along with the honey, harissa, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and 1.5 cups of water.

Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, then cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook the ratatouillaise in the oven, stirring every half an hour, until the vegetables have collapsed and everything is “bien confit” (well reduced) — about 2.5 hours. If too much liquid remains, uncover the pot for the last 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

I found the recipe on Kristin Espinasse’s site, A Day in a French Life at:
Complete instructions with photos can be found on Ann Mah’s blog here:

1 comment:

  1. And I've just pinned '21 Simple One-Pot Pastas' on Pinterest ... In my defence, I'll be trying this ratatouillaise recipe next Fall, when it's a bit cooler around here.