Honestly, I have zero idea how, when, or why I learned to make it, but along with turkey burgers, scrambled eggs, and grilled cheese, ratatouille was one of the handful of things in my not-so-fancy culinary repertoire BDE (Before Domestic Era).
In fact, when I did my junior semester abroad at the University of St. Andrews and lived in my very first big girl apartment, I made ratatouille for myself approximately five times a week. My two Scottish roommates routinely questioned my diet of “stewed vegetables,” vodka, and Haribo, but I was proud of both my vegetable consumption and cooking skillz.
(As far as the vodka and Haribo, vodka pairs nicely with all foods, and Haribo gummies are a delightfully fat-free dessert, so it’s unclear why my roommates were so judgy.)
Full disclosure, this early version of ratatouille was on the ghetto side of things, and it was basically the vegetable equivalent of hobo sangria. I would casually throw a bunch of poorly chopped zucchini, onions, and bell peppers into a pot with a can of diced tomatoes, let it cook down for 45 minutes or so, and then douse the whole shebang in hot sauce. It was pretty gloppy and relatively tasteless, but it was comforting, and I felt quite virtuous crying into my nightly bowl of vegetable slop while watching X-Factor on the couch. (I swear they require X-Factor contestants to have some sort of heart-wrenching sob story. I can’t take it.)
I continued to make ghetto ratatouille on a pretty regular basis until I arrived at Le Cordon Bleu, where, by some fabulous miracle, authentic ratatouille was one of the first recipes taught in Basic Cuisine. I actually remember that particular demonstration well because I was all like, “Hey, you guys!! I know how to make ratatouille!!!”
Except that I didn’t. (Color my classmates shocked.)
As the chef talked through the recipe, I was bombarded with unexpected knowledge bombs. First, he explained that all the vegetables needed to be relatively the same size in order to cook evenly. (Note to self: Stop hacking up the vegetables into irregular chunks.) Second, the eggplant needed to be sautéed separately because it requires extra oil and TLC in order to become all buttery soft and delicious. (This explained why, on the occasions that I had used eggplant in ghetto ratatouille, it had always been spongy and gross.) Finally, the vegetables should be sautéed until tender before adding the tomatoes, which should not come from a can. (Blergh.)
Needless to say, my mind was completely blown by this intel, and the ratatouille that I made in class that day was life-changing. I quickly became obsessed, and the ratatouille kick that followed lasted an embarrassingly long time. There is actually proof of this fetish on the blog, as beautifully depicted here and here. (I can’t stop giggling at the osso buco picture. Truly masterful photography.)
Sadly, as with most recipes I love, I consumed a disgusting amount of ratatouille from spring 2012 until winter 2013, when I solemnly swore I’d never eat the stuff again.
But then yesterday, the strangest thing happened. I was sitting at my desk, tired, achy, and unattractively puffy from a weekend of wedding-ing, when I was hit with an intense craving for the aforementioned vegetable medley. I couldn’t believe it, but the heart wants what the heart wants, so I gathered my ingredients and whipped up these Summer Ratatouille Tartines with Burrata and Balsamic-Honey Drizzle.
These tartines are summer comfort food at its finest, friends, and I couldn’t be more excited to be sharing these bad boys with you. Ratatouille calls for the season’s most glorious produce, and I made this version extra summery with juicy heirloom cherry tomatoes and lots of fresh basil. All the vegetables eventually melt together (chillax, it takes all of 25 minutes), and the result is an insanely flavorful ragout that’s equal parts sweet, savory, and herbalicious. It’s heaven.
And piled on top of crunchy grilled bread with creamy burrata cheese and a sweet and tangy honey-balsamic drizzle? I CAN’T TAKE IT.
The deliciousness is almost too much…
I’m thrilled to inform you that this tartine is perfection anytime of day, and it’s a surprisingly satisfying vegetarian meal. However, if you’re in the mood for something a little more substantial, I wouldn’t be opposed to getting some crisped pancetta or prosciutto involved, or adding a poached/fried egg on top. And for those of you that aren’t burrata fans (why?!), fresh mozzarella or goat cheese are excellent, albeit slightly less epic, substitutions.
Entertaining? Good for you! I strongly suggest turning these ratatouille tartines into bite-size crostini and serving them as fancy finger food at all of your summer soirées. People will freak.
Happy Tuesday, peeps. Isn’t “ratatouille” a fun word to say?
Summer Ratatouille Tartines with Burrata and Honey-Balsamic Drizzle: (Serves 4)
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 mediums summer squash, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ small eggplant, diced
12 ounces (1½ dry pints) cherry tomatoes, halved (I used heirloom cherry tomatoes because they were so pretty, but you do you.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how much heat you like)
Coarse black pepper
¼ cup thinly sliced basil, plus extra for serving
4 slices whole wheat sourdough (or bread of your choice)
8 ounces burrata cheese, sliced (or torn with your hands)
Preparing your Summer Ratatouille Tartines with Burrata and Balsamic Honey Drizzle:
-Let’s start with the balsamic honey drizzle. Place the balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 10-12 minutes until it has reduced by half and become nice and syrupy. Set aside until ready to use.
-Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the eggplant and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. (We’re cooking the eggplant separately because it needs a little extra oil and TLC so that it ends up melty and tender instead of spongy and gross. Trust me.)
-Stir in the crushed red pepper and a good pinch of salt and coarse black pepper, and cook for two minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove the cover, and stir in the thinly sliced basil. Taste and season with extra salt and pepper if necessary.
-Now it’s time to toast your bread. You can pop it in the toaster if you like, but I like to grill mine. If you’d like to follow my lead, just heat a lightly oiled grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the bread and grill for 1-2 minutes on each side until those glorious grill marks appear.