This is my mum’s version of the Provençal ratatouille. A dish like this one – basically a stew of summer vegetables – must exist all around the Mediterranean. Because of its vibrant colors, in Umbria it’s called “bandiera” meaning “flag” . In Basilicata it’s known as ciambotta or cianfotta. It’s a close relative of the Sicilian caponata, another miracle of Southern country cooking.
I have with the bandiera the same love-hate relations that others have for custard. If you get the wrong version is awful. Particularly when the veggies have been cooked in tomato sauce until mushy and unrecognizable. My family’s recipe is crisp and fragrant. The trick is to cook vegetables separately and quickly combine them with just a hint of tomato and onion. When you keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, it becomes be slightly softer and mellower, perfect food for a picnic or garden party.
- 1 eggplant, diced into 1-inch pieces
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch strips
- 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 plum tomatoes peeled and cubed
- a few leaves of fresh basil
- a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Chop all ingredients before starting to cook. Prepare a bowl where to keep the cooked vegetables. Take a large non-stick pan preferably a wok and proceed as follows:
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and shallow fry the potatoes until crispy. If I am in a hurry I pierce the potatoes with the tip of a knife, then par-cook them in the microwave for 5 min, peel, slice and proceed to crisp them up in olive oil. Transfer in the bowl.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, add one teaspoon olive oil and the eggplants. Cover, saute for a few minutes until they start to become golden, lower the heat, uncover and cook for approx 5 more minutes until tender. This way the eggplants absorb a minimal amount of oil. Transfer in the bowl with the potatoes.
- Stir fry the the zucchini and peppers separately over medium heat, then add to the bowl.
- Lower the heat, add a little more olive oil if necessary and soften the onions until translucent. Increase the heat to maximum, add all the cooked vegetables and the tomatoes and stir fry quickly until the tomatoes are absorbed by the vegetables. Season and transfer back into the bowl, add basil.
Serve at room temperature or cold, better if the next day.
The dish is fantastic prepared like this but it does take some time. If I you need an honorable shortcut, cook the potatoes and onions and then stir fry them with a bag of frozen mixed roasted vegetables and two tablespoons of diced crushed tomatoes. Of course this is also a delicious way to use left over grilled vegetables from yesterday’s BBQ dinner.