Giuseppe Arcimbaldo (1527-1593), a court portraitist who served 3 Hapsburg kings in both Vienna and Prague, is best known for his paintings which depict a human head using fruit, vegetables, animals, and other natural objects that are related to the subject of the painting. For example, Water (1566).
Ratatouille is a dish made of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and onion stewed in olive oil with various herbs. It arose in the area near Nice at the end of the eighteenth century.
Both Arcimbaldo paintings and ratatouille are composed of disparate elements that retain their distinct form.
Ratatouille à l’Arcimbaldo
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion, diced
3-5 garlic cloves, minced
1 eggplant, diced
1 ts salt
1-2 ts cumin
½ ts cinnamon
¼ – ½ ts cayenne pepper
several sprigs of savory
1 zucchini, diced
a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden
125 g fresh sheep or goat cheese, crumbled
150 g (1 cup) couscous
Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the eggplant, salt, spices, and savory and cook covered until the eggplant is tender, about 10 minutes.
Add the zucchini and tomatoes and cook another 10 minutes until tender. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the couscous. Bring 125 ml (1 cup) water to a boil. Add the couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes.
When the couscous is done, add to the stew. Mix in chopped fresh basil and the cheese.