Ratatouille à la Bettina

June 23, 2012

Ratatouille à la Bettina

Bettina Walker, Tucson CSA

Just a few days ago I made a truly delicious ratatouille using ALL CSA vegetables I had on-hand from this week’s share.
Many years ago my mother showed me a ratatouille recipe that she liked.  I can’t even remember in what periodical or book it appeared.  I made it back then according to the recipe but through the years I have modified that recipe in numerous ways.  So, here it is as I made it this past week:

4-5 small or 3 medium or 2 large eggplants
2 large zucchini or 3 small-medium ones
minimum 4 – 5 medium size tomatoes but can easily accommodate more
1 large onion or 2 smaller ones – chopped
2 large cloves of garlic or 3-4 small ones-cut up very finely or passed through garlic press
good-quality olive oil (I buy mine at Afonso’s at St.Phillip’s plaza during Farmers’ Market there on Sat. or Sun.)
salt & pepper to taste
chopped up fresh basil or ca. 2 tablespoons dried basil leaves

Rinse whole eggplants, zucchini, and tomatoes.

It makes the ratatouille less watery if you can extract some of the internal water from the eggplant and zucchini before cooking it.  Best method to do that is slice both eggplant and zucchini in round slices each about 1/2″ – 3/4 ” thick.  Lay slices down either on a clean kitchen towel double folded or on double folded paper towels.  Then sprinkle top surfaces of eggplant and zucchini with salt. Don’t salt too much – should be a light coating of salt over the surface of the veggies.  After one side of eggplant & zucchini slices have been salted, turn them all over and salt the surfaces of other side.  Cover with more paper towels and then let sit for about 30minutes.

In the meantime, you can cut up the onion and garlic and tomatoes — diced fairly small.  With the tomatoes try to get rid of the seeds and juice.  I usually just scrape that into a cup before dicing the flesh of the tomatoes & when I’m all through, I reward myself with a cupful of delicious fresh tomato juice. Onion(s) should be chopped up to rather small pieces.

After the eggplant slices and zucchini slices have sat for a half an hour with towels absorbing their extra moisture, cut slices up anyway you like for a ratatouille. I usually quarter the zucchini slices and cut up the eggplant slices so that the pieces are approximately 3/4″ – 1 inch wide & long.  I leave the skin on the eggplant and zucchini because I think it gives the ratatouille more flavor; but some people prefer to remove the skin. Up to you!

Coat bottom of big skillet (or 2 medium-size skillets cooking side by side) with olive oil and let skillet heat up on medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic until onions are mostly transparent.  Then add the cut-up eggplant and zucchini as well as an additional tablespoon of olive oil. Stir well; turn heat down to medium or to medium-low, depending on how hot & how quickly your stove heats.  Stir regularly; and, as you do, every few minutes keep an eye on bottom of inside of pan, to determine need for additional olive oil as ratatouille cooks:  you want to make sure that the bottom of the contents of the pan isn’t burning & sticking anywhere.  It should cook this way (with close supervision) for 30 minutes on medium -low heat.

Then add the cut up tomatoes and stir.  Cover skillet again and let cook for about 5 minutes.  In last minute of cooking add basil leaves (if you use the dried variety, rub leaves between palms of hands first creating a coarse powder from the leaves), salt, and cracked pepper.  Stir all ingredients well; and, after a minute or two, REMOVE from heat.  Great to serve warm over brown rice or quinoa or inside a baked potato or just by itself.

One nice feature of this recipe for this time of year is that it keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week and IT IS JUST AS YUMMY COLD AS IT IS WARM!

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