Bring the quaint flavors or Europe to your kitchen with this recipe for ratatouille! This is a classic dish that is loaded with summer garden vegetables and lots of flavor. This stew originated in the Provence region of France near the Mediterranean Sea, and is a delicious entree enjoyed during any time of year.
While there are many variations, the main star is tomatoes. Traditionally, ratatouille is made by cooking the tomatoes all day on the stove, but this recipe turns to canned tomatoes to create a delicious meal in less time and with less fuss.
This dish is not only delicious, but it’s also teeming with nutrition, as it’s naturally low in fat and high in antioxidants. Eggplant and zucchini are high in vitamin A, and diced tomatoes contain lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color, and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. It also has the ability to neutralize free radicals within the body to prevent oxidative stress, which helps prevent damage to our cells and our DNA. While lycopene is present in other fruits such as watermelon and pink grapefruit, tomatoes (which are the second most consumed vegetable second to potatoes in the U.S.), account for more than 85% of the lycopene in the American diet. Interestingly, cooked tomato products may hold particular significance, as the lycopene from cooked and processed tomatoes is more bioavailable than that of fresh tomatoes. Heating or processing breaks down the tomato cell matrix and promotes isomerization of lycopene from all-trans isomers to the more bioavailable form of cis-isomers. Research shows that single daily servings of processed tomato products produce significant increases of lycopene concentrations in blood and buccal mucosal cells in healthy adults.
Go ahead and make a pot of Ratatouille, get a fresh loaf of French bread, and enjoy an evening in France without leaving the comforts of your own home!