Living Fit Recipes: Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille

I went for my first 8 mile run this weekend.
It was a run-walk, to get me back in shape after my foot injury.
It felt so great, and we made good time.
Until the very end of the run, when I suddenly felt sharp pain in my knee, which made it difficult to walk, let alone run.
I’m learning a lot about my body, about pushing it, about when to work through discomfort and when not to.
I’m learning how mental running is.
And how hard.
I know when I finish that 1/2 marathon I am going to feel so proud, because this is quite the journey!


After our run, we went to the farmer’s market.
I found some beautiful eggplants.
It made me think of one of my most favorite recipes, ratatouille.
I’m not talking about the cartoon with the rat who wants to be a French chef.
This is a real dish and might just be my husband’s favorite meal.
Mine too.
I am not exaggerating when I say it’s the world’s best.
I’ve been making this ratatouille for about 7 or 8 years; long before the movie came out and most people heard of ratatouille for the first time.
I loved it before it became famous.

I saw the recipe years ago in a Martha Stewart magazine and it looked so good I had to try it.
I followed the recipe religiously and it came out great.
The next time I made it, I changed it a little.
7 years later, most of the main elements remain the same, but I have given it my own twist and I think it is even better than the original.
It is definitely easier.
It is chock full of vegetables and a really good for you dish that still feels like a treat.
You can’t beat it.

The thing that sets this recipe apart from almost all other ratatouille recipes that I have seen is that before you stew the veggies, you roast them.
Roasting the eggplant and zucchini gives them so much more depth of flavor than simply stewing them.
It brings out the sweetness of the vegetables.
It makes all the difference in the world.

Before I give you the recipe, I’ll give you a few tips so it will come out perfect.
It’s the kind of recipe you’ll want to make on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
You won’t be spending hours actually cooking the dish, but you will need time to roast them, which means you need to be around.
Here goes!


To prep the eggplant and zucchini for roasting, chop them into a large dice.
Mine were 1 inch squares all around.
Remember, when you roast them they will shrink up quite a bit, so you want them big to start with.
Also, if you cut them too small, they will cook too fast and not develop that rich sweetness you’re looking for.

You should also roast your own peppers.
It isn’t hard at all.
I know you are rolling your eyes and saying, “I don’t have time for that nonsense.”
But trust me, you can do it.
The original recipe called for holding each pepper over the flame of your gas grill or bbq.
I tried that.
It took forever.
And a day.
I’m a mom with 4 little kids–I don’t have forever and a day.
Or even a day.
So, I solved the problem by putting the peppers on a rimmed cookie sheet and roasting them in the oven.
As each side turns black, I open the oven, and turn the pepper until all the sides are black.
It takes just a moment to flip the pepper and the whole thing is roasted in 15-20 minutes.
When the whole thing is black, and the skin is like paper, I pull it out of the oven and plop it into a bowl.
I then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the pepper steam for a good 10 minutes at least.
When it’s done steaming, you take it out of the bowl and the skin almost falls off in your hands.
And way better tasting than store bought roasted peppers.
There is no comparison really.


For the tomatoes, though, I take a totally different approach.
I used canned.
First time I made this ratatouille, I peeled, cored, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes.
And then I said, “never again.”
If you have ever peeled, cored, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes, you know what I mean.
It takes forever.
And a day.
Or maybe longer.
Being a mom of 4 and all, I opted for the easy way out.
There are some really good canned tomatoes out there, so you don’t have to worry about these tomatoes spoiling your ratatouille.
I like to use fire roasted tomatoes, but you can just use regular if you want.
The Muir Glen organic fire roasted are my particular favorite.

After you have roasted your veggies, sauteed the onions and garlic, then you pour everything into one pot.
You let it just simmer for 30 minutes, or much longer if you want.
It just gets better the longer you cook it.

It will all come together in one sort of  brownish mess.
Ratatouille is not the prettiest dish.
But I promise, the taste is divine.


Ratatouille is often served alongside chicken or fish.
It is also very good over pasta.
If you steer clear of pasta, as I usually do, you could save that for a treat.
Or try the brown rice and quinoa pasta at Trader Joe’s.
I just had it for the first time and it was good.
For another treat, ratatouille makes a fabulous topping for pizza.
Or you can grill some crostini and put a spoonful of ratatouille on top.
But what I like to do best is to eat a bowl of it plain.
It’s like a thick, vegetable stew.
If you want some protein in it, add some lean, chicken italian sausage.
You really can’t go wrong.1510751_10202115121732983_1839826504_n
But the best thing about this ratatouille is that it gets better the next day.
So when you come home from that 5:30 am boot camp class, you can have it for breakfast.
Yep, breakfast.
I like it with a poached egg on top.
The creamy yolk, mingling with all the juices from those roasted vegetables and tomatoes?
It is one of the best breakfasts ever.
Try it and see.
And if you do, tell me.
I’d love to know who else falls in love with this dish.
Bon Appetit!
And remember, eating real, nourishing, food is an essential part of a living fit lifestyle.
So get cooking and Keep On Living Fit!
Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 4 (with leftovers)
Time: From start to finish this recipe takes a while.  But aside from the initial chopping, you don’t have to be there for all of it.  A lot of the time is roasting time or stewing time.  Don’t start it an hour before dinner.  Start it early in the afternoon and then you’ll have plenty of time to relax before dinner.
2 large eggplant  cut into 1 inch dice
4 med zucchini  cut into 1 inch dice
2 med yellow squash  cut into 1 inch dice
2 sweet bell peppers 1 red and 1 yellow  roasted, peeled and cut into thin strips
1 med to large yellow onion  cut in half and then sliced into “half moon” slices
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 cans diced tomatoes
olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
your choice of fresh or dried basil, oregano or thymePreheat oven to 400
Place eggplant and zucchini in a single layer on rimmed baking sheet.
You may fill more than one baking sheet.  Be prepared to roast multiple batches.
Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Stir to coat with olive oil
Place in oven to roast for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.
Stir occasionally while roasting.
Place peppers on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.
As each side of the peppers get blackened, turn the pepper.
Continue to do so until all sides are completely black.
Remove peppers from oven and place in a bowl.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
Wait at least 10 minutes before removing peppers from bowl.  The skin should come right off of the pepper.  If not, place back in bowl and wait a bit longer.
After peeling, remove stem and seeds from pepper and slice into long, thin strips.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, cover the bottom of pot with olive oil.
Add onions and garlic and cook on medium-low until golden and onions are soft.
Add zucchini,, eggplant and peppers.  Stir.
Add tomatoes.
Stir and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Season ratatouille with salt and pepper to taste.
If you’d like, add fresh basil, oregano or thyme to individual servings.
Or, season with dried herbs to taste.