Eggplant

6 September 2022

Eggplant is another vegetable that is related to tomatoes and potatoes. Yes, it is a member of the nightshade family, but unless you have a sensitivity or allergy, there should be no ill effects. Occasionally people report a slight headache or itchiness in the mouth. Of itself it has little flavor but can easily be combined with other vegetables to form a side dish or vegan entree. It has a purple outer skin and white “meaty” interior but the seeds can sometimes taste bitter. It is a food that holds a lot of water or liquid and so often will be salted before cooking to allow some of the excess moisture to dissipate as described in the directions for the second recipe below.

When shopping at roadside stands or farmers’ markets, look for smooth evenly purple skin and firm to the touch. One medium eggplant will weigh about 1 ½ pounds and serve four.

It pairs well with allspice, chili powder, curry, garlic, oregano and rosemary.

Ratatouille

This version is easier to assemble since it has you cutting the veg into cubes. You can also go the more formal route like shown in the animated flick and slice them into even rounds and artistically arrange them in concentric circles. We have given you both versions.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large (1¼ lbs) eggplant, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into ⅓-inch cubes, with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions:

  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan (no need to clean it). Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.
  • Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

 

Alternative

  • Slice the eggplant, tomatoes, squash, and zucchini into approximately ¹⁄₁₆-inch rounds, then set aside
  • Spread eggplant mixture evenly across the bottom of the prepared casserole dish; sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Spread zucchini in an even layer over top. Lightly salt and sprinkle with a little more cheese. Continue layering in this fashion, with tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, and bell pepper, covering each layer with a sprinkling of salt and cheese.

If possible, you should make ratatouille at least a day ahead of time so the flavors have a chance to mingle.

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months for a taste of summer once the cooler weather arrives but the zucchini won’t be nearly as crisp, but still flavorful.

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