To continue my series on vegetable dishes that I make all the time but never document, here is my recipe for ratatouille. There aren't many completely meatless meals that show up on my table—let's be honest—but this is one of them. Basically a rainbow of stewed summer vegetables, this rustic French dish is perfectly homey if a bit homely. Lately, I've been serving it over brown rice, letting the garlicky tomato sauce soak in to temper the whole-graininess, but it can be a side dish, too. Fresh thyme and basil keep the flavors bright. This is "food on the food" at its best/worst. Your CSA zucchini and eggplants will thank you for it, but your kids most certainly will not!
This takes about an hour and a half from start to finish (if you prep your other veggies while the eggplant and zucchini are draining). A fair amount of that time is at the stove so I wouldn't attempt this during a heat wave, but the nights have been cooling off recently...
1 medium eggplant (or two of those skinny ones you get in your farmshare), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, halved and sliced
2 smallish zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 lbs. tomatoes, halved, seeded, and chopped into cubes (or two medium cans diced tomatoes in juice)
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed into smallish pieces by pounding on the side of a knife
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
Fresh basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place eggplant cubes in a colander and sprinkle with a few pinches of kosher salt. Set a smaller bowl on top to weigh them down and place zucchini into that bowl, also sprinkling with salt. Let sit half an hour. In small handfuls with a clean kitchen towel, give them a gentle squeeze to dry them (I don't rinse the salt--I just add less at the end).
Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and lightly brown onions, about 6-8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer onions to a bowl, reserving oil. Heat another 2 Tbsp. olive oil and lightly brown the zucchini, stirring occasionally. Transfer zucchini to the bowl of onions. Add another 2 Tbsp. oil and cook the eggplant until lightly brown, tossing every few minutes.
Return the zucchini and onions to the pan with the eggplant, and add the tomatoes, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, a few pinches of salt, and black pepper. Simmer 20-30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Discard bay leaf. Season to taste with pepper and perhaps a bit more salt. Serve over brown rice and sprinkle with ribbons of basil. Serves 4-6.
Eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil: Waltham Fields, Community Farm, Waltham, MA