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Touring Wisconsin Food

Healthy French Ratatouille Is Dream Recipe For The Creative Cook

Just to let you know, my mom is not the only cook who neglects to specify proportions in a recipe. Linda and Roger Petterson, members of Wisconsin’s Harmony Valley Farm group, also seem to think dictating quantities superfluous. Their recipe for French Ratatouille is an excellent example of how the Petterson’s leave a cook room for creative interpretation. The recipe calls for zucchini, eggplant, onions, green pepper, tomato, parsley, basil, and olive oil. How much? You decide. How big is your pot? Or your appetite? Now the Pettersons do specify the quantity of garlic, – 1-2 heads (or do they really mean cloves,? Is a head one bunch of cloves? Probably in this recipe it matters little since everything else is relative). Yes, this recipe is the dream recipe for those cooks with attention-deficit disorder who have trouble following recipes to begin with.

In honesty, I am one of those recipe-following-challenged cooks. Perhaps my tendency to wander from obeying a recipe’s stated proportions is genetic, or perhaps it just plain results from being too-easily distracted. But none-the-less, I like recipes that lack stringent guidelines. I’ve more room for error that way, – error that needn’t be defined as error because, well with quantities lacking, who knew? Yes, the preparation of such recipes are more like experiments. So I am a kitchen experimenter. I couldn’t say scientist however, because I never record notes on my procedures or outcomes. Rather mine is a dance of whim that more and more often results in edible food.

So I was drawn to the Petterson’s recipe for French Ratatouille. And if you continue reading I’ll tell you the assembly procedure they do recommend. But first let me urge you to try making it yourself for reasons beyond any acknowledged cooking ineptitude. You should make this recipe because it its healthy. It’s all vegetables baked in healthy olive oil. No, it won’t look pretty, but in post-holiday winter neither do we. In Wisconsin we’re too bundled up for anyone to discern whose figure is svelte and whose isn’t. Which is all the more reason to make a lot of this vegetable dish now and eat it. Make a huge quantity, take it everyday to work for lunch, and by spring you will be as skinny as a string bean. This is a healthy way to eat, to diet, to enjoy food. Bon Apetite!

I found the Petterson’s French Ratatouille recipe in the cookbook From Asparagus To Zucchini: A guide to cooking farm-fresh seasonal produce. The book is a compilation of recipes and information about vegetables grown in Wisconsin gardens. It was created by the Madison area community supported agriculture coalition. Usually I turn to this cookbook in the summer when I’m overwhelmed with my own garden produce. But in my new year’s attempt to feel better this winter by eating healthy, I’ve decided to make more of the recipes from this book. So here’s the Petterson’s recipe:

  • sliced tomatoes
  • 1-2 heads garlic, peeled and slivered
  • zucchini, eggplant, onions, and green pepper, all cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped fresh basil
  • olive oil

“Heat oven to 300 degrees. Starting with tomatoes, layer vegetables and herbs in baking dish, filling it very full. Drizzle 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil over each layer. Cover and bake 3 hours. If soupy, uncover during last hour. Baste with liquid if you like. Makes any number of servings.”

Now if you think I’m going to tell you the proportions I used you’ve missed the spirit of this whole post. I will say that I didn’t have 3 hours after work to wait for dinner to cook, so I assembled the ratatouille the night before, stuck it in the ‘fridge, then cooked it in the morning before I went to work. (Yes, I do rise early.) No, I didn’t make my kids eat it; they ate the left-over broccoli. Of course, I wouldn’t have denied them any had they requested some. I made loads. I’ll be taking my left-over ratatouille to work for the rest of the week. And this is a good thing because I liked it. Next time I might add mushrooms and artichoke hearts; I love artichoke hearts. Oh, and I added salt and pepper to the ratatouille. It’s a habit some of us have. Enjoy.


  1. I love salad and this one looks great, very healthy as well..

  2. I love salads too, but am getting tired of the same old salad dressings. I’m too hesitant to buy a bottle of an unknown dressing, though. It might be a waste of money. So I’m on the look-out for some dressing recipes that others can recommend. Know any?

  3. You cant beat good old salad cream with a salad!! 🙂
    But i do like a change every now and then!

  4. I love to eat salad before eating the main course.

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