Cook As Needed For Pain, Volume 1: Ratatouille

Note: I wrote most of this on August 1, and then I just abandoned it for some reason. I sat down to write this morning, and noticed it there in my drafts, and decided to finish it. Must be your lucky day.

I was making ratatouille earlier while listening to sludgy metal/hardcore NOLA legends Eyehategod’s mindblowing second album (1993’s Take As Needed for Pain) when it occurred to me that I could (and should) make a blog about it. My plan as of right now is to make “Cook As Needed for Pain” a regular feature where I write about what I’m cooking and what I’m listening to while cooking (hence the “Volume 1” in the title), but I don’t wanna get ahead of myself.

Ratatouille, if you’re not familiar with it, is more than a funny and touching Pixar movie featuring funnyman Patton Oswalt as an adorable little rat. It’s also a delicious French stewed vegetable medley that happens to be a super easy way to use up summer vegetables. I first learned about it at the not-very-good French culinary school I attended back in aught-three, but as is typical of things I learned there, I don’t remember much about it. I’ve been making it pretty regularly for the last 10 years or so, though, and it’s really just a delightful dish, and it could only be easier to prepare if someone else made it for you and asked you to reheat it.

The New Food Lover’s Companion (Third Edition) (a book that I still reference on a regular basis, even though the internet exists) defines it thusly:

A popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs – all simmered in olive oil. The vegetables can vary according to the cook. They can be cooked together, or cooked separately and then combined and heated briefly together. Ratatouille can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, either as a side dish or as an appetizer with bread or crackers.

Sounds pretty easy, and versatile as fuck, right? That’s because it is. My favorite things to cook are the things I can riff on – chili, gumbo, curried vegetables, ratatouille, what-have-you. I mean, if I wanted to measure a bunch of ingredients, I’d be a baker.

Here’s the list of ingredients in today’s batch of ratatouille:

1 medium green bell pepper
1/2 a small red onion I had left in the refrigerator
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium eggplant
2 medium-sized tomatoes, plus 5 or 6 cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic
dried basil
dried thyme
dried oregano
kosher salt (to taste)
fresh ground black pepper
olive oil

Note: I cut everything except the garlic and onion to roughly the same size as half of a cherry tomato, and I minced the garlic and onion. Mrs. Circle Pit doesn’t like the texture of onions, so if I wanna cook with them I have to either cut them small enough to essentially hide them or cut them large enough that she can see them and pick them out.

I started out by sauteeing the onion and bell pepper in olive oil over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, then I added the zucchini and yellow squash, sauteed that for a couple of minutes, then added the eggplant, cooked for another minute or two, then the tomatoes, then the garlic and all the herbs, then I cooked it together for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then I turned the heat down to low and covered the pan. And I don’t mean to alarm you, but the ratatouille is STILL SIMMERING LIGHTLY AS I TYPE!

Just look at this pretty motherfucker!

It was seriously so fucking simple, and it’s gonna be even more delicious than it was easy. Also, I got to listen to Take As Needed for Pain while I cooked it. I’ve definitely had worse days.

This brings us to the end of the original post. All I really want to add is that you should make ratatouille as often as possible, and you should also listen to Eyehategod as often as possible. Don’t let their name scare you, there’ll be plenty of time for the music to take care of that. Thanks for reading.

Open this fucking pit up!

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