Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School is destined to be one of those cookbooks that every home cook will return to again and again.
Peel the onions. Halve and chop. Slice off the top and bottom of the eggplants. Use a vegetable peeler to remove alternating bands of skin. Cut the eggplants in half widthwise, then quarter each half lengthwise. Cut each piece into 1.5-cm- – 1/2-inch-wide batons, then dice.
Cut off the top and bottom of the bell peppers. Stand them upright. Cut off the flesh around the core. Cut each pepper into four lobes at each of the ribs. Peel each piece with a vegetable peeler. Cut the pieces into batons, and then dice.
Cut off the top and bottom of the zucchini. Cut in half widthwise. Cut around the core containing the seeds. Discard the core. Cut each piece into 1-cm- – 3/8-inch-wide batons, then dice. Cut the garlic cloves in half. Peel and remove the green cores. Coarsely chop, then finely dice.
Remove the stems (stalks) from the tomatoes and discard. Cut an X in the base of each tomato. Immerse for 10 seconds in boiling water, then in ice water. Once the tomatoes have cooled, remove them from the water. Peel.
Halve them horizontally and scoop out the seeds with a small spoon. Quarter each tomato half in one direction, then in the other direction. Rinse the basil and dry gently.
Put 1 tablespoon of oil into a deep skillet or frying pan. Add the onions. Season with salt and mix. Add 4 or 5 basil leaves. Brown for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add the bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few more basil leaves. Mix gently and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Heat 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan. Add the eggplants and season with salt and pepper. Add 10 basil leaves. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. Transfer the contents of the pan to a colander and let drain. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the same pan. Add the garlic and sauté to soften for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add 6 or 7 basil leaves. Mix and let cook, uncovered, for 8 minutes. Add to the onion mixture.
Rinse and dry the pan. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the zucchini and season with salt and pepper. Add 4 or 5 basil leaves. Cook for 5 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time. Add to the onion–tomato mixture. Add the eggplant. Mix gently. Transfer the ratatouille to a serving dish and decorate with a few basil leaves.
TIPS FROM OUR CHEFS
Keeping the Best Qualities -- Cooking the ingredients separately allows them to stay crisp, keep their color, and retain their vitamins (the cooking time is shorter), and it makes it easy for the water they contain to evaporate.
Rinsing -- It’s essential to rinse the pan after cooking the tomatoes, because their acidity could cause the zucchini to change color.
Serving -- Serve this ratatouille as an accompaniment to meat or fish, or serve it as a one-course meal with scrambled eggs. Serve hot or cold.