My grandma Trader Joanna moved out of her house and into an apartment this year. Like anyone who has lived in the same house for 60 years, she had filled it with artwork, papers, tschochkes and memorabilia. Even amongst the junk, there were some great pieces of history, as I found out when I was helping my mom clear things out a couple months ago. On a bookshelf in the study, I found three issues of Gourmet magazine from 1967 and 1968. My grandma was never a great chef, but she was a classy hostess and had some special dishes she knew how to make very well, which she would whip out for parties. She doesn’t remember whether she made any recipes from these issues, but she obviously knew Gourmet was the magazine to turn to when looking for entertainment quality recipes.
For my July Gourmet, Unbound entry, I selected a recipe for ratatouille from the July 1967 issue. Unlike today’s recipes, the recipes in old Gourmets tend to be elegant dishes made in the classic styleâ€” no twists or fusions necessary. They are also written in paragraph form with less detailed instructions and fewer steps. This basic, yet delicious, recipe follows in that tradition. It consists of slowly stewed vegetables and minimalist spicingâ€”salt, pepper, basil and marjoram. The resulting flavors evoke the French countryside in their warm, robust, simplicity. Ratatouille makes a nice side dish and a great main course, served with crusty bread and topped with a poached egg. I have been making pisto manchego, the Spanish version of ratatouille, since I got back from studying abroad in Spain in 2003. I may now have to add this French version from Gourmet history to the regular rotation. And even if she never made it, I can always imagine my grandma whipping this up to show off her European flair to the guests at one of her parties.
In a large saucepan cook 2 large onions, thinly sliced, in 1/2 cup olive oil until they are transparent. Stir in 2 green peppers, seeded and diced, and 2 eggplants, peeled and cubed, and cook the vegetables for about 5 minutes. Add 4 small zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch slices, 2 cups sliced celery, and 5 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into cubes. Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover the pan, and cook the ratatouille over low heat for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season it with 1 garlic clove, mashed, a pinch each of basil and marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the ratatouille about 5 minutes longer and serve it hot or chilled.
See my other Gourmet, Unbound posts:
June 2010, Potato Salad with Olives and Peppers
May 2010, Moroccan-Style Mussels
April 2010, Shrimp Scampi Pasta
March 2010, Chicken with Black Pepper Maple Sauce
February 2010, Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
January 2010, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Pancetta
December 2009, Walnut Spice Cake with Lemon Glaze