Toss the eggplant with 1 tsp. kosher salt in a colander and let sit in the sink or over a bowl while you prepare the other vegetables.
Sauté the vegetables one at a time.
Tip:If the juices in the pan look black and burned at any time, rinse the pan with water and wipe it out. If not, leave the cooked-on juices in the pan; they'll add flavor to the final dish.
In a large (12-inch) skillet, heat 1 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, the thyme, and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and deep golden brown, 15 to 20 min. Scrape into a clean colander or large strainer that's set over a bowl to catch the juices.
In the same skillet, heat another 3 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to soften and get browned around the edges, about 5 min. Add the rosemary, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're extremely soft and sweet, another 10 to 15 min. Gently fold into the onions in the colander.
Heat another 1 Tbs. oil over high heat, and as soon as you see the first hint of smoke, add the zucchini and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Shake and stir to distribute the zucchini slices evenly in the pan so they all get browned. Cook over high heat until tender and nicely browned on both sides, 5 to 7 min. Add to the colander and gently fold with the onions and peppers.
Finish with the eggplant and tomatoes.
Dump the eggplant onto some paper towels, and pat to blot up surface water. Heat 3 Tbs. olive oil in the skillet over high heat, add the eggplant (no additional salt), and shake and stir to distribute the cubes evenly in the pan so they all get browned. Cook over high heat until lightly browned on several surfaces, about 5 min, and then lower the heat to medium. Cook until the eggplant is very tender--not at all al dente--another 13 to 15 min. Fold into the other vegetables.
Add the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and let sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and all their juices and 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. Cook until the tomatoes collapse slightly and the juices thicken and darken a bit, 3 to 5 min. As you're cooking, scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze all the cooked-on vegetable juices. Add to the colander, scraping out all the juice from the skillet, and fold everything together.
Let the vegetables rest, then reduce the juices
Now let the vegetables sit in the colander for 15 to 20 min. At that point, you should have around 1/2 cup liquid in the bowl. Pour it into a small saucepan, heat until gently boiling, and boil until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup. The flavor should be very bright and intense. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and a few drops of the hot sauce to taste. Fold this glaze into the vegetables, along with the basil, parsley, and mint (if using). Taste for salt and add more if needed.
Serve now or later.
Serve soon, if you want it to be warm, or let the ratatouille cool and serve at room temperature.
Make Ahead Tips
This ratatouille is delicious when made a day or two ahead. Just store it in the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature or gently heat it in a baking dish in a low oven before serving.
nutrition information (per serving):
based on eight servings;
Photo: Scott Phillips