Want to add a little cuisine francaise to your backpacking menu? Ratatouille is a traditional French dish of stewed summer vegetables featuring eggplant, onions, peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes—perfectly seasoned with garlic and herbs. Enjoy as a main course or combine with rice. Bon appétit!
Peel the eggplant. Before dicing, cut the eggplant diagonally into half inch slices. Squeeze or press eggplant slices gently between paper towels to remove excess liquid which can taste slightly bitter. Dice eggplant and other vegetables into small pieces. If you were not planning to dehydrate this meal you would cut the vegetables into larger pieces.
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the oil and sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, peppers, fennel, bay leaves, and thyme or Herbes de Provence*, and sauté until peppers are soft.
*Herbes de Provence can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores and typically contains rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, and thyme. If you can't find it, just use thyme.
Add eggplant and sauté until it turns golden.
Add zucchini and sauté for another five minutes.
Add diced tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes cook down.
I reward myself with a serving right out of the skillet and refrigerate the rest overnight to allow the flavors to fully absorb into the vegetables.
Spread vegetables out in a single layer on dehydrator trays covered with non-stick sheets. Midway through the drying process you can break-up any vegetables that are stuck together.
Dehydrate at 135 degrees for approximately 10 hours. You can speed up the drying process by starting out at 145 degrees for the first two hours. Drying times may be longer for some dehydrators. Vegetables will be leathery when done with no moisture appearing when you cut into a piece.
Store in an air-tight container for longest shelf life. Place in zip-lock bags for trail use.
On the Trail:
Combine one cup Ratatouille with one cup water in your pot and rehydrate for five to ten minutes. For larger servings, just add equal parts of Ratatouille and water.
Heat until nice and warm. It is not necessary to maintain a boil. I use less than ½ ounce of alcohol in my homemade backpacking stove to prepare this meal. Total cook time is six to eight minutes.
Transfer pot to an insulating cozy for another ten minutes where your meal will continue to rehydrate.
To enjoy this meal with rice, combine ½ cup Ratatouille, ½ cup instant rice, and one cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer for a minute or two. Transfer pot to cozy for ten minutes.