Thursday Crush: Ratatouille

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It is in the heat of August and September that some of the most delicious vegetables emerge from the garden. One of my absolute favorite recipes combines a handful of the stars of summer – even more delicious together.

This ratatouille is a modified and simplified version of Alice Water’s amazing ratatouille recipe. Feel free to play around with this one – it would be hard to go wrong! I like to make a large pan using as many vegetables as I have, since there are so many great ways to enjoy this dish.

What to do with ratatouille:
Enjoy it on it’s own, or with a crusty baguette.
Serve over potatoes, topped with grated cheddar cheese.
Fold into pasta with grated Emmental and bake, or stir into macaroni and cheese before baking.
Ladle a generous amount into a small baking dish, and create some hollows to crack eggs into. Bake until the eggs are set.

Suggested ingredients:
olive oil
eggplant
zucchini or other summer squash
fresh basil
dried red chili flakes
tomatoes
salt and pepper

Instructions:
Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. If the eggplant is very fresh or small, use as is. Otherwise you may want to sprinkle salt on the cut pieces and allow it to drain for 30 minutes, and then rinse. (This removes some of the bitterness that older eggplants can develop.) Squeeze or pat the pieces dry with a paper towel.

Take the largest pan you own and warm it on medium heat. Add a healthy glug of good olive oil to the pan, and when warm add eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is browned on all sides. This usually takes me about 20 minutes, but can vary. When the eggplant is looking delicious, remove from the pan and set aside for later.

Add another glug of olive oil to the pan, along with a pinch of dried red pepper and several stems of uncut basil. Follow this with the summer squash and stir, cooking until the squash releases some of its juice.

Prepare the tomatoes as you would like. For this recipe, I love to peel the tomatoes before adding. Some varieties can be peeled easily with a knife, while others need to have a hot bath followed by a cold dunk – how-to here. Whether you decide to peel or not, add the cut tomatoes to the pan and cook together with the squash until the tomatoes have broken down to form a sauce.

Add the cooked eggplant to the pan and stir together, allowing the vegetables several minutes to combine. Remove the whole basil stems, and add additional chopped basil if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Image Credit: Laura Chassaigne

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