Ratatouille is the perfect recipe to make for Passover because it is so versatile.
We always joke that when my husband Alan married me, he converted to Sephardic Judaism. People ask him if it was difficult to adapt to Sephardic minhagim. In his dry South African tone and a straight face, he says that he’s accepted the sacrifice of eating rice on Passover.
The irony is that his family is originally from Spain and their name was Gomes y Peres. After the expulsion of 1492, they found refuge in Amsterdam and their name changed to the more Germanic Gomperz. From Amsterdam, they travelled to London where the name was Anglicized to Gomperts. Around the turn of the century, an enterprising diamond cutter great grandfather traveled to South Africa when diamonds were discovered there.
The Jewish community in South Africa was settled by Lithuanian and Latvian Jews, so his family traditions are very Ashkenazi. He loves to talk about Grandma Queenie’s patchar, a jelly made from cows’ feet that has hard boiled eggs and green olives set in the middle of the mould. Jewish holidays in the Gomperts family feature sweet chopped herring and kichel, chopped liver, a good brisket and a deliciously light sponge cake. The good thing is that I like Ashkenazi food and Alan loves all the Iraqi and Sephardic food that my family eats. Our mixed marriage works.
While Ratatouille is not a Sephardic dish, it has everything that Sephardim love.
Every year for Passover, I make a huge pot of ratatouille and it has become Alan’s favorite. While Ratatouille is not a Sephardic dish, it has everything that Sephardim love. It’s a bright chunky stew made with eggplants, zucchini, red and yellow peppers, lots of tomatoes, onions and garlic and it’s seasoned with seasoned with paprika and lots of fresh basil, parsley and herbs de Provence.
Ratatouille is the perfect recipe to make for Passover because it is so versatile. Make a big batch and serve it as a hot side or a cold salad. Use leftovers to poach fish or chicken breast or serve it with eggs, Shakshuka style.
Ratatouille is so delicious; you’ll forget that it’s healthy. Though I doubt you’ll forget that it’s Passover.
2 medium eggplants, chopped in a 2-inch dice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions, finely chopped,
10 cloves, garlic, minced,
2 red peppers, seeded and diced
One yellow pepper, seeded and diced into
a thin 1 inch strip
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
2 Tbsp. herb de Provence
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
8 zucchini squash
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh baby basil, stems
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Allow to drain for one hour.
Arrange eggplant on a parchment lined baking tray and drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil.
Roast for 20 to 30 minutes until eggplant has softened and is slightly golden. Set aside.
Warm remaining olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion has softened.
Add the garlic, red pepper, yellow pepper, paprika, and black pepper and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté for 3 minutes.
Add the zucchini and sauté for 3 minutes, then add the roasted eggplant.
Pour the crushed tomatoes into the pot, stir well and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until sauce begins to bubble slightly.
Add the parsley and basil. Cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer for 1 hour.
Ratatouille can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Sharon Gomperts and Rachel Emquies Sheff have been friends since high school. The Sephardic Spice Girls project has grown from their collaboration on events for the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Follow them on Instagram @sephardicspicegirls and on Facebook at Sephardic Spice SEC Food.