Julia Child kept a second home in Provence, a small stone farmhouse in the Cote d'Azur situated on the property of her co-author Simone Beck, aka Simca.
You can visit her former home, called La Pitchoune, and even enroll in 5 day cooking classes that take place right there at the cottage. I can only imagine how amazing it would be there in Julia's footsteps, actually cooking in her French kitchen.
Sigh. Instead of being there and doing that, I try to capture how it might feel to sit under the olive trees on her patio at La Pitchoune, and to cook the food Julia might have while she lived in Southern France, which was probably full of all the local Mediterranean ingredients that were abundantly available to her.
Julia worked on volume 2 of MTAOFC during one of her stays at La Pitchoune, and volume 1 includes a recipe for ratatouille, which she called "the essence of Provence". Now that summer produce is in full swing, it's the ideal time to make it.
Julia's recipe is prepared on the stovetop, with each vegetable layered and simmered in a skillet. Her recipe also begins by salting the eggplant and zucchini for 30 minutes before cooking, which I skipped. Not only do I lack the patience, but I don't see the necessity. I haven't salted eggplant before cooking for ages, and I've never noticed any change in texture or flavor.
In the spirit of re-mastery - not to mention simplicity - I roasted the eggplant and zucchini instead, and finished them in a pan with sauteed onion, garlic, zucchini and thinly sliced fennel. Each of the vegetables retains their shape, which, as Julia points out is an important element in a ratatouille. But they still get to mingle together for their "brief communal simmer" to bring all the flavors together.
You can't argue with the versatility of a vegetable dish like this, as it could be a main course along with some cheese and crusty bread; a cool or room temperature salad for potluck or picnic, or - as I served it - a topping for grilled chicken seasoned with lemon and oregano.
Roasted Vegetable RatatouilleServes 4 -61 eggplant, peeled and sliced into 2-inch pieces1 pound ripe Roma or cherry tomatoes, halved1 red bell pepper, seeded and choppedRosemary and/or thyme sprigsExtra virgin olive oil1 teaspoon salt1 thinly sliced onion2 or 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped1 fennel bulb, stalks trimmed, thinly sliced1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes, or to taste3 or 4 very small zucchini (1-inch diameter), halved lengthwise and sliced into chunksFresh ground black pepperHeat the oven to 400 degrees.Arrange the eggplant, tomatoes and peppers on a sheet pan and toss with about 3 tablespoons of the olive oil - use more or less as needed to coat the vegetables evenly. Sprinkle the salt and herb sprigs over the vegetables and roast for 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and golden.In a large sauté pan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook gently until the onion is soft and wilted. I like to cover the pan slightly to keep moisture in and prevent the onion from browning.Add the garlic and fennel to the pan, cover and cook until the fennel is softened. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the zucchini and chili flakes, stirring frequently, until the zucchini are just tender. I don't like mushy, overcooked zucchini so I tend to cook it very briefly.Scrape the eggplant and tomatoes into the pan along with all their accumulated juices. Add a little water or broth to the pan if it looks dry and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and season liberally with more salt and freshly ground pepper.