Incredible Edible Egg(plant)

by Sarah on January 25, 2011 · 11 comments

Oh eggplant

I’ve previously shared with y’all with my earliest memories of eating fried eggplant at my grandparents’ home in Georgia, and my love for baba ghanoush (especially the one from Newflower Market, although my twist in the form of “Baba-Canoes” wasn’t so bad).[Seriously, y’all, I opened this last night and it’s almost gone. Spoon, meet baba ghanoush. Baba ghanoush, meet spoon.]

There really are lots of things you can do with an eggplant. You can put it on pizza, stir it hummus, use to it make spaghetti sauce “meatier,” make caponata (or combine it with puttanesca and make Capon-esca!)…….or you can simply toss chunks of the baby Japanese eggplants you scored “for cheap” at the Asian market…

….in a healthy coating of low-sodium Teriyaki sauce and roast ’em for 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees…
So simple. So incredible (and edible).

Once you get past the whole obnoxiously alienating notion of having to “salt and drain” the eggplant [totally unnecessary…don’t even bother] you will realize that eggplant is quite easy to prepare on it’s own (see “Teriyaki style” above), but also a quite lovely addition to many stew-like dishes (of which I have a general tendency to create) involving a [fake, in my case] Dutch oven or incredibly large saute pan.

My recent eggplant obsession has been aided by the fact that they have been on sale for the past few weeks here in Texas…allowing me to play around with one of my favorite incarnations of eggplant? Ratatouille!

[And yes, before you make the natural jump in our media-soaked culture…I do mean “like, that Ratatouille?”A movie I have actually never seen. And yes, I know it is supposed to be “SO good, Sarah!” ;)]

I wish I could tell you the first time I ate ratatouille, but I haven’t got a clue. I do know it is a traditionally French stew-like dish that for some odd reason I associate with my Italian-speaking roommate of two years ago. (Go figure.) I also know that there are many views on how it should be prepared and what vegetables actually belong in the “traditional” ratatouille.

My father (Papa Smart), for example, views ratatouille as a laborious process requires hours of work to first roast or saute all the vegetables separately, and then combine them into a layered casserole which is then cooked further.* The result is undeniably delicious…but who has time for all that?^

*I attribute his unceasing patience in the kitchen to his biochemist background. Clearly, this fine attention to detail and patience in food prep was not inherited by me.

^When it was “Dad’s week” growing up, we regularly ate dinner at 9 PM.

Certainly not me.

My version of ratatouille, therefore, follows a similar plan as many of my other recipes….Step 1: Assemble a whole lot of incredibly beautiful and delicious veggies.(That would be three peppers–of which I used about half of each…so you could use two small-to-medium of whatever color is on sale–a sweet onion, some garlic, a whole medium-sized eggplant…and a bunch of mushrooms, a normal-sized zucchini and yellow squash…)

“Why, hello beautiful peppers, how ARE you today?”

Before you get all in a tizzy, just know that when I say “normal-sized” or “medium” or “about the size of your fist” it’s really just my attempt at some semblance of a recipe for those of you who need them. With this recipe, it really doesn’t matter…depending on how much of each veggie you chop, you’ll end up with a heartier* (or consequently, less “hearty”) ratatouille.

*That means thick. As in, it will need to shop in the ‘Husky’ boys section of the department store. [Does that even exist or did I just make that up?]

Speaking of chopping…that leads us right on to…Step Two: Chop those beautiful veggies up into pieces of about the same size.

(which just means you can fit them in your mouth in one bite)Try not to eat too many while you are chopping. Although it will be tempting.Well, except for the raw onions. That won’t be tempting at all.*

*Although, hey, whatever floats your boat. Or sautes your onion. Or something.

Step Three: Saute your veggies in a little oil and a lot of seasoning.

In this case, just a tablespoon of Italian seasoning.
[Yeah, I know it’s traditionally French. I taught YOU that, remember. Whatever.]

Add it in with the onion, which goes in first. Once it’s soft, add all the rest of the veggies and stir really well.

Step Four: Add your liquid elements.

Yes, like on Captain Planet, you too can raise your ring and scream “WATER!”Except in this case…it will be chicken broth. (Or veggie, as you like it.)

Just when you thought it was over….

(and actually, before the veggies have cooked down this much)

I’m just trying to create suspense here.(And apparently give y’all a headache with that fake out hologram [slash] optical illusion photo above…)

Step Five: Bring in the game-changer.
That’s right. We just took this ratatouille to a whole new place.And forget that whole “I used a measuring cup” photo…because really, I used the whole entire jar.

And just like that…Pesto Ratatouille was born.

You can serve it on pasta…or just in a bowl with some delicious soft, chewy bread…or you can be like me and cater to another veggie obsession-of-the-moment and put it on spaghetti squash!I guess this would be…Step Six: Dig in!

Pesto Ratatouille

(Makes a lot)

1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
2 bell peppers (any color….but preferably at least one red)
1 sweet onion
7-8 button mushrooms
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5 oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 8.1-oz. jar pesto

1. Chop all veggies into bite-sized chunks.
2. In a Dutch oven or supersized saute pan, cook onion and garlic in a wee bit of oil over medium heat. Add Italian seasoning and cook until onions are soft.
3. Put all veggies into the pot, stirring well to coat with seasoning.
4. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then pour in diced tomatoes and broth.
5. Stir in pesto.
6. Bring ratatouille up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender to the bite.*

*Not to be confused with the fabulous memoir Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl.


On last gratuitous vegetable photo. For kicks and giggles.
I mean, since I don’t have a Disney Pixar film to show you.

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