These cozy vegan ratatouille bowls are made with a base of creamy polenta, topped with a savory mixture of garlicky summer veggies and savory baked tofu.
I was going on a earlier this week about my days of working in restaurants, and often having to make a meal of the vegetable of the day. Here's the thing I left out: it wasn't all bad! Sometimes the daily veggie was awesome.
Ratatouille was a favorite, and one that I actually discovered via one of the restaurants I worked at. I think the chef felt bad that I couldn't have any items from the menu and made an effort to put extra awesome veggies on special when I was working, ratatouille being one of them. If you're dealing with basic vegetable side dishes, it doesn't get much better than ratatouille, because it's got all the good stuff in there: eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, along with lots of herbs and garlic.
Looking back, I'm still pretty amazed that I was able to eat just ratatouille for dinner and have the energy to keep up with my tables, sometimes until the wee hours of the night.
Since I love ratatouille so much and enjoyed making a meal of it (however insubstantial it may have been), and also since we're hitting that time of year when everybody's gardens runneth over, I decided to go and turn it into an actual meal, in bowl form. Creamy polenta, as you may have noticed, is one of my favorite bowl bases, and it worked perfectly with the tender, savory veggies in these ratatouille bowls. We're taking total summer comfort food here, if that's even a thing. Since a meal never feels quite complete to me without some protein, I went and threw in some savory marinated baked tofu.
Creamy Polenta Ratatouille Bowls with Savory Tofu
For the Savory Baked Tofu
- ¼ cup soy sauce or tamari
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
- 1 tsp. rubbed sage
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
For the Ratatouille
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium zucchini, chopped
- 1 medium eggplant, diced
- 3 cups diced tomatoes,
- ½ cup vegetable broth or water
- 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp. dried
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Creamy Polenta
- 1 ½ cups polenta grits
- 3-4 cups water
- 1 ½ cups unflavored soy or almond milk
- salt and pepper to taste
Make the Savory Baked Tofu
While the ratatouille simmers, stir together soy sauce, red wine vinegar, vegan Worcestershire sauce, thyme, sage and black pepper in a small bowl. Add tofu cubes and toss to coat. Allow to marinate for 15 to 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment. Arrange tofu cube on parchment and place into the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes, carefully flipping halfway through, until tofu has darkened a bit and taken on a chewy texture.
Make the Ratatouille
While the tofu marinates, coat the bottom of a large pot with 1 tablespoon of oil and place over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until very soft and translucent, 10 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes more, until pepper is soft. Remove from pot and transfer to a large plate or bowl.
Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot, and once hot, add zucchini. Sauté until lightly browned and softened just a bit, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate or bowl with onion mixture.
Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot, and once hot, add eggplant. Saute until lightly browned and softened, about 10 minutes.
Return onion and zucchini mixture to the pot. Add tomatoes, water or broth, thyme and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a simmer, lower heat, and allow to simmer, uncovered, until veggies reach desired tenderness. I let them go for about 30 minutes, so they were very soft, but you can adjust this to your liking. Anywhere between 15 minutes and 1 hour should do. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaves, then stir in basil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the Creamy Polenta
While the tofu bakes and ratatouille simmers, place polenta grits, 3 cups of water, milk, salt and pepper into a medium saucepan and stir a few times. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a bit of extra water if mixture becomes too thick. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide creamy polenta among bowls. Top with ratatouille and tofu. Serve.
Ratatouille recipe adapted from The Kitchn.