Easy Ratatouille with Roasted Fish

Is there a more quintessential summer dish than ratatouille? This Provencal mélange is prepared with a medley of the season’s most colorful and omnipresent produce. Last week I easily found everything needed for this dish at my local farmers’ market. Dark shiny eggplants, zucchini and bell peppers picked just that morning, tomatoes that were deep crimson inside and out, and bunches of fragrant basil all found their way into my straw basket.

At home, I cubed the eggplant and sautéed it in plenty of olive oil. Next, bits of zucchini and red bell pepper were lightly browned, and then tomatoes and basil along with seasonings of thyme and red pepper flakes were added to the pan. It took about 25 minutes to prep the vegetables and another 20 to cook them—not bad for a glorious, make-ahead dish that burst with vibrant hues and flavors.

For serving, I spooned ratatouille into shallow bowls and topped each serving with a quickly roasted fish fillet (thick cod loins on one occasion and striped bass fillets on another), but grilled lamb chops or chicken would have made equally tempting partners. After savoring this French vegetable dish twice within a week, my husband declared that he could eat ratatouille every night of the summer!

Is there a more quintessential summer dish than ratatouille? This Provencal mélange is prepared with a medley of the season’s most colorful and omnipresent produce. Last week I easily found everything needed for this dish at my local farmers’ market. Dark shiny eggplants, zucchini and bell peppers picked just that morning, tomatoes that were deep crimson inside and out, and bunches of fragrant basil all found their way into my straw basket.

Ratatouille
1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound
1 pound medium zucchini
1 large red bell pepper
3/4 pound summer tomatoes
Olive oil for sautéing the vegetables
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme (crumbled, not powdered)
Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup torn basil leaves, packed, plus several sprigs for garnish

Fish
4 one-inch thick white fish fillets such as cod or striped bass
Olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare the vegetables for the Ratatouille. Trim the stem from the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into 3/4 inch rounds and then cut the slices into 3/4 inch dice. Trim the ends from the zucchini and quarter each lengthwise. Cut these strips into 1/2 inch pieces.
Stem the bell pepper, halve it lengthwise, and remove and discard the seeds and membranes. Cut each half into 1/2 inch pieces. Stem the tomatoes, halve, crosswise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut into 1/2 inch dice.

2. Place a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and cover the bottom generously with olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the eggplant. Cook, stirring often, until the eggplant has softened, and is lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes, adding more oil if needed. Do not overcook or eggplant will become mushy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate.

3. Add enough oil to the skillet to coat the bottom lightly. When hot, add the zucchini and red bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until both are softened and lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes or more. Add the tomatoes, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes. Return the cooked eggplant to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are combined, 3 to 4 minutes more. Season with more salt as needed. (Ratatouille can be prepared 6 hours ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat stirring.) Stir in the basil and cook 1 to 2 minutes more until slightly wilted. Serves 4.

4. For the fish, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

5. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper them generously on both sides. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a large, ovenproof skillet set over medium high heat. When hot, add the fillets and sauté for 2 minutes. Turn the fish with a metal spatula and drizzle each with some lemon juice and olive oil. Place the skillet in the oven and roast until the flesh is opaque and flakes easily, 8 to 10 minutes.

6. Spoon ratatouille into 4 shallow bowls and top each with a fish fillet. Garnish each serving with a basil sprig. Serves 4.

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2011

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