Not the traditional Provençal version, but a great representation of the original: a ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onion and fresh mozzarella brings summer goodness to your table.
What you need:
2 eggplants of a medium diameter
2 or 3 zucchini, also medium diameter
5 – 7 tomatoes: I have used vine ripened here, but Roma or Heirlooms also work
1 medium onion: I prefer Vidalia
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Basil leaves: 5 or 6 fresh chopped
Fresh mozzarella cheese – about 6 – 8 ounces
Salt and Pepper
Prepare the Eggplant:
Slice the eggplant in 1/2 inch slices, salt the slices lightly and press out the excess liquid. I layer the eggplant onto a cooling sheet inside a sealable container, cover with a weight and let sit overnight. If you do not drain the eggplant of excess liquid, the ratatouille will have a bitter taste and be far too watery.
Slice one half of the onion into rings, about 1/2 inch thick. Toss those into a pan with 1 tbsp. of olive oil, a pinch of salt and 2 cloves of chopped garlic: sweat the mix until the onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.
Slice the tomatoes into 1/2 inch thick slices – I remove the worst of the “slimy goop and seeds” in the middle. Set aside. Slice zucchini in the same manner, again the pieces that are really seedy I will set aside to freeze and use later for broth, in soup or for zucchini bread.
With your eggplant drained, veggies sliced and onions cooled, you are ready to assemble. I use a glass 9″pie plate.
Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil into the pan, being sure to spread it around and cover the sides and the bottom. I then use a pinch of salt and a couple of turns of freshly ground black pepper to “season” the oil. You can also use a “garlic infused” oil here – the vegetables will soak up that little zing.
Starting with a slice of eggplant, and working from the outside edge in toward the inside, I stack eggplant, tomato, onion and zucchini along the edge repeating the pattern in a spiral. You should finish in the center. I use a slice of onion and a whole piece of tomato to make the centerpoint.
Then I shred up the fresh mozzarella, and sprinkle it about the dish. Add another pinch of salt and a bit of black pepper, and pop into the oven for 40 minutes at 350°. Remove from the oven, toss on the fresh chopped basil and some fresh grated parmesan. Let set for 15 minutes before serving.
Now – for the honesty. I rarely make my ratatouille with eggplant. I’m not a big fan of it. This time I had eggplant and wasn’t up to making eggplant parm, and had no olives to do a tapenade. (recipes will come later)
I also rarely eat ratatouille as a side dish. I usually will have it as my entreé, with a crusty bread, a dash of balsamic vinegar and a glass of red wine. Last night that’s how I ate.