The Bakery’s Ratatouille

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Chef Louis Szathmary’s The Bakery was revered in Chicago from November, 1963 until the restaurant closed June, 1989. Reader Rich K. hoped we could track down a vegetable dish Chef Louis used to serve as a side to Beef Wellington. Szathmary’s longtime associate Barbara Kuck says that would have been ratatouille– “Made with love and fresh vegetables.” In keeping with the Mediterranean tradition of making ratatouille to use up whatever vegetables were on hand, Szathmary’s version sometimes included yellow wax beans, cauliflower, asparagus, fresh green summer cabbage, or tender young cucumbers with the basic vegetables (eggplant & tomatoes)—“but never so much of anything to disturb the original character of the dish.” The basic recipe from Szathmary’s, The Bakery Restaurant Cookbook, CBI Publishing, Boston, MA, 1981, is featured with permission here.

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 6 Tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups sliced green pepper
  • 1 lb zucchini cut into 1 ½ x ¼ x ¼ inch pieces
  • 2 cups eggplant, cut the same as the zucchini
  • 1 pkg frozen green beans or, in-season, 1 lb fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed
  • 4 to 5 Tbsp, 4 percent white vinegar
  • 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 10 ½-ounce can tomato puree
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes

Instructions

  1. In a large heavy pot, over medium heat, sauté the onions in the oil until they turn glossy. Mash the garlic with the salt and add to the pot with the onions. Add the green pepper slices, zucchini, and eggplant. Add the green beans if the fresh variety is used. Sprinkle the vinegar in the pot, cover, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If frozen green beans are used, add after the 10-minute cooking period.) Add tomato sauce, tomato puree, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer over very low heat 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  2. In a separate saucepan, heat water to boiling. One by one, drop the tomatoes into the boiling water. Remove after 2 to 3 seconds, and immediately rinse under cold running. Peel, core, and chop the tomatoes. Add chopped tomatoes to the mixture. Gently stir, then remove pot from the heat. Let stand in a warm place for at least 1 hour. Correct seasonings, if necessary, by adding salt, pepper, or sugar. Serve hot or chilled.

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