Jose Mier Introduces Sun Valley, CA to Some French Cuisine

Ratatouille on Olive magazine Jose Mier Sun Valley

Jose Mier loves all cuisines but French has to be one of the most daunting. It needn’t be, however, as we see in this recipe for ratatouille found on the Olive magazine website.

Ratatouille, a dish deeply rooted in the culinary traditions of southern France, particularly the Provence region, embodies the essence of Mediterranean cuisine. Known for its vibrant array of vegetables and rich, aromatic flavors, ratatouille is more than just a meal; it’s a celebration of seasonal produce and rustic cooking methods. This comprehensive exploration of ratatouille will delve into its history, ingredients, preparation methods, variations, cultural significance, and its portrayal in popular culture, offering a thorough understanding of this beloved dish.

Ratatouille on Olive magazine Jose Mier Sun Valley
Ratatouille on Olive magazine Jose Mier Sun Valley

History and Origins

Ratatouille’s origins can be traced back to the Provençal region of France, specifically Nice. The term “ratatouille” comes from the Occitan word “ratatolha,” which translates to “stir up.” This is fitting given the nature of the dish, which involves cooking a mixture of vegetables. Historically, ratatouille was considered peasant food, made by farmers during the summer months when vegetables were plentiful. Its humble beginnings are reflected in its straightforward preparation and use of readily available ingredients.

The dish likely evolved over centuries, with each generation adding its own touch. Early versions of ratatouille were more akin to stews, with vegetables being cooked together for extended periods. The modern iteration, which emphasizes the distinct flavors and textures of each vegetable, developed as culinary techniques and appreciation for ingredient integrity evolved.


At its core, ratatouille is a simple dish made from a combination of the freshest summer vegetables. The primary ingredients typically include:

  • Tomatoes: The base of the dish, providing acidity and a rich, savory flavor.
  • Eggplant: Adds a creamy texture and slight bitterness.
  • Zucchini: Offers a mild, slightly sweet flavor and firm texture.
  • Bell Peppers: Red, yellow, and green peppers add sweetness, color, and crunch.
  • Onions: Provide a sweet, caramelized undertone.
  • Garlic: Infuses the dish with a robust, aromatic depth.
  • Herbs: Traditional herbs de Provence, such as thyme, basil, and bay leaf, enhance the flavor profile.
  • Olive Oil: The cornerstone of Mediterranean cooking, used generously to sauté and stew the vegetables.

Preparation Methods

Ratatouille can be prepared using various methods, each bringing out different aspects of the vegetables’ flavors and textures. The two most common techniques are the traditional stewing method and the more contemporary layered approach, popularized by the animated film “Ratatouille.”

Traditional Stewing Method

In the traditional method, vegetables are chopped into similar-sized pieces and cooked in stages to ensure each component retains its texture and flavor. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Preparation: Slice the eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes into uniform pieces. Dice the onions and mince the garlic.
  2. Cooking the Vegetables: In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, cooking until softened and fragrant. Next, add the bell peppers and cook until they begin to soften. Then, add the eggplant and zucchini, cooking until they start to become tender.
  3. Adding Tomatoes and Herbs: Add the tomatoes, along with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence. Stir to combine, ensuring the vegetables are evenly coated with the tomatoes and herbs.
  4. Simmering: Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the mixture simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The dish is done when the vegetables are tender but not mushy, and the flavors have melded together.
  5. Serving: Ratatouille can be served hot, warm, or cold, making it a versatile dish for any meal.

Layered Method

The layered method, made famous by the film “Ratatouille,” emphasizes presentation and maintains the distinct flavors of each vegetable. This method involves arranging thinly sliced vegetables in an overlapping pattern. Here’s how to prepare it:

  1. Preparation: Thinly slice the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Finely dice the onions and garlic.
  2. Making the Sauce: In a sauté pan, heat olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until soft. Add finely chopped tomatoes and herbs, cooking until the mixture reduces to a thick sauce.
  3. Assembly: Spread the sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Arrange the sliced vegetables in a circular pattern, alternating the slices and slightly overlapping them.
  4. Seasoning: Drizzle the arranged vegetables with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and additional herbs.
  5. Baking: Cover the dish with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 45-55 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Serving: This version is typically served as a visually stunning main course or side dish.

Variations of Ratatouille

While the classic ratatouille recipe is widely cherished, various regions and chefs have put their unique spin on the dish. Some popular variations include:

Tian Provençal

Tian Provençal is a variation where vegetables are arranged in a ceramic dish called a tian. The vegetables are sliced thinly and arranged vertically, then baked slowly, allowing the flavors to meld while maintaining their individual textures. This method is similar to the layered ratatouille but typically uses additional ingredients like cheese and breadcrumbs for added flavor.

Confit Byaldi

Chef Thomas Keller popularized this version, which involves thinly slicing vegetables and layering them over a piperade (a sauce made from tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and garlic). The dish is baked at a low temperature for an extended period, creating a confit-like texture. The result is a refined and elegant take on the traditional ratatouille.

Grilled Ratatouille

In this variation, the vegetables are grilled before being combined. Grilling adds a smoky flavor and charred texture to the dish, enhancing the natural sweetness of the vegetables. After grilling, the vegetables are mixed with a simple dressing of olive oil, garlic, and herbs.

Nutritional Benefits

Ratatouille is not only delicious but also packed with nutritional benefits. The dish is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants due to its diverse vegetable content. Key health benefits include:

  • High in Fiber: Promotes digestive health and helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • Rich in Antioxidants: Vegetables like tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplant are high in antioxidants, which help protect against chronic diseases.
  • Low in Calories: Despite being hearty and satisfying, ratatouille is low in calories, making it a great option for those looking to eat healthily.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Provides essential nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium.

Cultural Significance

Ratatouille is more than just a dish; it is a symbol of Provençal cuisine and the Mediterranean lifestyle. It embodies the principles of using fresh, seasonal ingredients and simple cooking techniques to create flavorful, wholesome meals. The dish has become an ambassador of French cuisine worldwide, celebrated for its versatility and ability to showcase the natural flavors of vegetables.

In Provence, ratatouille is often served at family gatherings and special occasions, reflecting its role as a comfort food that brings people together. Its popularity has spread beyond France, with various adaptations appearing in different cultures, each adding its unique touch while maintaining the essence of the dish.

Ratatouille in Popular Culture

Ratatouille gained international fame through the 2007 Pixar animated film “Ratatouille.” Directed by Brad Bird, the film tells the story of Remy, a rat who dreams of becoming a chef in Paris. The film not only introduced the dish to a global audience but also highlighted the importance of passion, creativity, and perseverance in the culinary world.

The film’s depiction of ratatouille, specifically the layered version known as Confit Byaldi, brought a renewed interest in the dish. Thomas Keller, who served as a culinary consultant for the film, developed this refined version, which has since become a popular interpretation in high-end restaurants.

Cooking Ratatouille at Home

Making ratatouille at home is a rewarding experience that allows for creativity and personalization. Here’s a detailed guide to preparing a classic ratatouille:


  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh basil for garnish


  1. Prepare the Vegetables: Wash and slice the eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes into uniform, thin slices. Dice the onion and mince the garlic.
  2. Cook the Onions and Garlic: In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, cooking until softened and fragrant.
  3. Add the Bell Peppers: Add the sliced bell peppers to the pot and cook until they begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Combine the Vegetables: Add the eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes to the pot. Stir to combine all the vegetables.
  5. Season the Dish: Add the salt, black pepper, thyme, basil, and bay leaf. Stir to ensure the vegetables are evenly coated with the seasonings.
  6. Simmer: Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the mixture simmer for about 30-40 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. The ratatouille is ready when the vegetables are tender but not mushy.
  7. Adjust Seasoning: Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
  8. Garnish and Serve: Garnish with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve hot, warm, or cold, either as a main dish or as a side.

Serving Suggestions

Ratatouille is a versatile dish that can be served in various ways:

  • As a Main Course: Serve ratatouille with crusty bread or over a bed of rice, quinoa, or couscous for a hearty and satisfying meal.
  • As a Side Dish: Pair ratatouille with grilled meats, fish, or poultry to complement the main course.
  • In Sandwiches or Crepes: Use ratatouille as a filling for sandwiches, wraps, or savory crepes.
  • With Pasta: Toss ratatouille with pasta and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese for a delicious and colorful pasta dish.


Ratatouille is a quintessential dish that beautifully captures the spirit of Provençal cuisine. Its combination of fresh, seasonal vegetables, simple preparation methods, and rich flavors makes it a favorite among food lovers worldwide. Whether prepared using the traditional stewing method or the visually appealing layered approach, ratatouille offers a delicious and nutritious way to enjoy the bounty of summer produce.

The cultural significance of ratatouille, both in its native France and globally, underscores its role as more than just a meal. It is a symbol of rustic simplicity, culinary tradition, and the joy of cooking with fresh ingredients. As we continue to explore and appreciate diverse culinary traditions, ratatouille remains a timeless example of how humble ingredients can be transformed into a culinary masterpiece.