Were you inspired to make ratatouille for the first time after watching the  2007 animated film by that name? Well, I was. 

Since then, I have made several renditions of this dish claimed by the people of the Provence region of France, which is known for cuisine that is both French and Mediterranean. Did you know any dish made with vegetables stewed in olive oil is known as ratatouille, a reference to the preparation of the vegetables rather than a particular recipe? All the more reason to put your own personal signature on this dish, and it’s a delightful way to utilize all your garden-y goodness. 

Ratatouille goes a long way, especially if served over polenta or a substantial pasta such as orecchiette. This dish makes a fabulous vegetarian meal or can be served as the perfect summer side with roast chicken or grilled sausages. Leftovers can be piled onto crusty bread, used as an impromptu pizza topping or spooned onto your scrambled eggs the next morning.

To complete your Provencal supper, try a fruit tart. This time of year, I just can’t get enough plums. I sample every variety and keep a big bowl on the counter that I go through rather quickly. Go ahead and mix and match your veggies, herbs and your plums, and enjoy the bounty of these final weeks of summer. 

Baked Ratatouille
1 1/2 cups tomato puree (canned or homemade)

2-3 tsp. each fresh oregano, thyme and rosemary, divided

4 large basil leaves, julienned and divided

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced and divided

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 small eggplant 

1 small zucchini

1 small yellow squash

1 red bell pepper 

1 onion

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour tomato puree into bottom of a casserole dish that all your vegetables will fit into — for this recipe, I used an oval casserole measuring 10 inches in length.

Stir 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, two sliced garlic cloves and 1/2 tsp. of each of the herbs into the puree. Season generously with salt and pepper. 

Trim the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. Peel the onion and remove the core of the red pepper. With a mandolin or sharp knife, slice vegetables into very thin slices. 

Layer the vegetable slices concentrically over the tomato puree beginning with the outer edge and working toward the middle of the dish, overlapping and alternating the slices. Drizzle each layer with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with remaining herbs and season with salt and pepper. 

Cover dish with parchment paper cut to fit inside the dish. Bake 30 minutes. Remove parchment and bake 30-45 more minutes or until vegetables are beginning to caramelize on the edges and tomato sauce is bubbling. Serve with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan. Spoon over polenta. Yield: 6 servings

Polenta Cakes
1 box (8.8 oz.) instant polenta

4 3/4 cups water

1 tsp. salt

2 ears fresh corn

1 tsp. olive oil

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Line a 9 by 9-inch baking dish with oiled parchment paper. 

Remove corn from cobs with a sharp knife. Place in skillet with 1 tsp. olive oil over medium-low heat and sauté until golden on the edges.  

Bring salted water to a boil and slowly pour in polenta. Turn heat to medium-low and stir for 5 minutes. If lumps form, smooth them out with a fork and add a bit more water if needed. 

Stir in corn kernels and Parmesan. Pour batter into baking dish. Bring to room temperature then chill, covered, in refrigerator for 2 hours or more.

When ready to serve, preheat a griddle or cast iron skillet to medium. Slice the polenta into nine 3-inch squares. Brush them on both sides with olive oil and fry until golden brown and warmed through, about three minutes per side. Yield: 9 servings

Plum Tart
Pastry for a single-crust pie

2 tablespoons flour

5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

5 large plums (1 1/2 lb.), halved, pitted and cut lengthwise into 8 wedges

1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

Heavy cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a large 17-by-12 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch round. Transfer to baking sheet.

Combine flour and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Spread evenly over dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange plums, skin sides down, in one layer on coated pastry. Sprinkle plums with remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Fold in edges of dough to create a dish around the plums, pleating dough as necessary to form a rustic tart.

Bake tart, loosely covered with foil, for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake approximately 5-10 minutes more until fruit is tender, juices are bubbling and crust is browned. 

Transfer baking sheet with tart to a cooling rack and brush the plum juice over the fruit with a pastry brush. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. Cool for 15 minutes. Serve with a trickle of heavy cream if desired. Yield: 6 servings.