8.02.2010

Ratatouille

The next cool evening—tonight, or maybe tomorrow, before it hikes up into the eighties again on Wednesday—do this:

Get out a heavy bottomed pot, and some tired eggplant, and a few cracked tomatoes from the garden. Find a green pepper in the fridge, and some summer squash or zucchini, and pull a cutting board out from the shelf. Sharpen the chef's knife, pull down a colander, and cut the eggplant and squash into rounded cubes. Toss the vegetables with salt and leave them to sit—for fifteen minutes, maybe, a half hour—until the moisture pools out of them in little drips.

In the meantime, chop an onion, flick on a burner, crank the radio. Listen to the news and the breeze and the motorcycle that revs up at sunset down the street. Mince a few cloves of garlic from the plant you just pulled up outside, wait for the oil to get hot. Brown the eggplant and then the squash, sipping on a cold beer while your work. Give the onions their turn next—their turn to sizzle, to brown, to sweat. Add the garlic and the tomatoes and let them sputter, simmer, watching the juices steam up and out through the screen. Turn the heat down, finish your beer, and add the eggplant and squash back in. Then taste—add a pinch of salt, let the ratatouille cool down, and get out a stack of containers for the freezer.

This is not—not today, at least—dinner. Make something else easy—a salad maybe, or a stack of sliced tomatoes and basil with fresh cheese—this ratatouille is for January, or February, or maybe March. It's for ratatouille pie, ratatouille plain on pasta, ratatouille baked with two eggs and cheese—in a season where nothing growing is so bright, so warm, so red.


RATATOUILLE PRESERVE

My mother has been making this ratatouille from The Victory Garden Cookbook for as long as I can remember. She puts it up in pints, as each ratatouille pie—essentially a quiche with bacon and mozzarella and ratatouille in it—uses two cups of the preserve.

1 pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
salt
olive oil
1 pound onions, roughly chopped
3-4 medium size garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
1/4 pound green or red peppers, seeded and roughly chopped (0ptional)
freshly cracked pepper

In a large colander, toss the eggplant and zucchini with salt (roughly a tablespoon). Set the colander aside in the sink for 15-30, so that the salt can draw the moisture out of the vegetables and the juices can drain.

Place the eggplant and zucchini on a clean dishtowel, and pat them dry. Turn the heat up to medium-high under a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add a bit of olive oil, and drop the eggplant and zucchini in. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until the zucchini is soft and the eggplant browned. Spoon the vegetables out of the pot and set them aside.

Leave the heat on medium high and add another glug of olive oil to the pan. Sauté the onions for 5-8 minutes, turning the heat down to medium after a few minutes and sweating them until they get soft and translucent. Add the garlic, sauté for thirty seconds or so, and add the tomatoes and the green peppers if you're using them. Cover the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes, then take the top off and turn the heat up to medium high again. Cook "briskly" until the juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and zucchini, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the extra juice from these vegetables evaporates, then turn off the heat and cool to room temperature.

Pack into pint containers for freezing; this recipe should yield 3-4 pints.

4 comments :

Anonymous said...

So glad you shared this, Elspeth! I love to add a lot of fresh dill. I'm always amazed at how it maintains its fresh scent months after this is tucked away in the freezer. This is a great dish -- so easy to prepare, and such a treat in midwinter. It will take you right back to your summer garden, as well as make you look forward to the coming garden season. ~xo and huge hugs, Mama

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm doing this today in order to use up some of the eggplant, squash and peppers recently harvested from the garden, and I look forward to enjoying ratatouille all winter long! Any chance you can share the ratatouille pie recipe you mentioned???

Elspeth said...

Hi Anonymous! I just posted the pie recipe. You can see it here: http://www.diaryofalocavore.com/2012/08/ratatouille-pie.html

Happy baking,
Elspeth

jerusha said...

I've been making ratatouille this summer with eggplant slices egged and crumbed and appreciating the extra richness and texture...

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