{Ratatouille} with bonus recipe

Internet factoid:

The eggplant is a member of the nightshade family to it is akin to the potato, tomato as well as the tomatillo and chayote. Although we use the eggplant as a vegetable it is really a fruit. The eggplant is native to India and Pakistan and was first domesticated over 4000 years ago. The fruit was introduced to China around 500 B.C. The Chinese hybridized their own varieties of different shaped and colored eggplants.”

I received two gorgeous eggplants and a bag of fairytale from my Denison Farm CSA share past weeks (week 8 & 9) plus I purchased an additional bunch of fairytale and another heirloom variety  at Wing Road Farm at Wednesday’s market. I love me some eggplant, but what to do with the auberginey goodness?

Well, I fixed it two ways; Ratatouille and Eggplant Cavier, ever-so-slightly-adapted from David Lebowitz’s blog. Both delicious, both super-functional for family-friendly geared food stuffs, as they both lasted all week. To boot, I reconfigured them in different left-over combinations (in pasta, over greens, cold, hot, on crusty gluten-free bread, with quinoa, on an omelet). Seriously, these two simple recipes are a great addition to your summer recipe rotation.

Ratatouille
adapted from Erica Wides’ Why We Cook podcast on Summer Stews (one of the BEST food podcasts)
2 onions
8 garlic cloves
1 big eggplant
2 peppers (any color you want- I used two green)
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 28 oz. can of diced or whole plum tomatoes (I cheated here- I didn’t want to use my entire farm stand tomato inventory on this recipe)
2 good sized tomatoes, cooked a bit to get off the skins then diced and seeded (for some fresh tomato goodness)
handful of whatever fresh herbs you have on hand- I used parsley, basil and thyme
2 T olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:
There are lots of ways to make this dish. I was listening to a recent episode of Why We Cook and Ms. Wides totally inspired me to make it. I have never tasted ratatouille before (!!!) or did I grow up with anyone in my family making the dish (???). From start to finish this version took about 3-4 hours (yes, it takes a bit of time for all those veggies to cook and lose their water)….This recipe is all about patience as you need to cook the “bleep” outta of every vegetable before you add the next. One last note, you need a pot or deep skillet that has a far amount of surface area as you want all the veggies to cook out at the same rate.

First, chop all your veggies. Cook your 2 tomatoes in some water to release the skins- do not over cook. Side aside. In your chosen cookware, add the olive oil and heat burner to whatever temp you use to saute veggies. Once heated add the onions then the garlic and some s&p a few minutes later. Cook until they get a little color. Then add the eggplant and cook until it breaks down and begins to become golden in color. Follow the same procedure for peppers then the zucchini and squash and lastly, the tomatoes. Once everything is percolating, turn down the heat to lowish and add a handful of herbs. Finish off by cooking down until most of the water is gone and you see olive oil droplets form on the surface (this is the oil from the beginning).

Serve warm, cold, the next day… a four days after. I first served it with quinoa, then I put some into a frittata. Then as a dip. The options are endless. This dish seriously keeps on giving. I had it a week later for lunch on top of some greens and it was amazingly sweet. It just gets better as all the flavors meld in the fridge.

Now onto the bonus recipe, Eggplant Caviar.

I subscribe to David Lebowitz’s blog, and I’m never disappointed.  A top pastry chef (worked at Chez Panisse for years), Mr. Lebowitz always had the most amazing posts and recipes (99% I can not make due to allergies, but they are so nice to look at!). This one really peeked my interest because it didn’t have cheese or some kind of nut in it- so no adaptation needed. I’m really just copying this recipe, with two minor adaptations, so please visit his site for additional instructions and insight into this recipe. I made two short cuts in this recipe as I had about 15 minutes to “whip this up”. David bakes the eggplant after the outside gets all charred from the grill. I didn’t do that as I choose to use the fairytale eggplant and they were fully cooked. I also didn’t scrape out the insides, I just used the whole eggplant. It created a smokey flavor that was to die for!!!! He also adds a step at the end where he puts the spread into a dish, makes a dent and pours in a little olive oil. YUM!

I have made this recipe twice and both times I’ve used it in a number of applications. As a pest-like pasta sauce. As a bruschetta, as a sandwich spread and also as a dip.

Eggplant Caviar
adapted slightly from David Lebowitz (recipe post)

3 small or 2 medium eggplants ( I used 7 fairytale eggplant)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic or shallot, peeled and minced (or both)
1/2 teaspoon smoked or sea salt
1/8 teaspoon chili pepper powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, parsley, cilantro, or basil

Instructions

Grill the eggplant. Once cool enough to handle, scrape the pulp from the skins into the bowl of a food processor. Add the tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic or shallot, salt, and chili pepper powder. Pulse the food processor a few times, until the mixture is almost smooth. Add the herbs and pulse a few more times.

Taste, and add additional salt, lemon, or other seasonings, as desired.

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