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Dark Side Ratatouille September 17, 2008

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, food porn, Garden, random stuff.
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I love eggplant. I love it breaded, I love it fried, I love it roasted. I just love love love eggplant. yummy.gif

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Of course, that’s not to snub the other late-summer-harvest veggies that are to be found at the public market, mind you. Fresh zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, all wondrous and so fleeting! ๐Ÿ˜ฅ

The obvious way to enjoy these garden favorites, for me, is, of course, Ratatouille.

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No, not quite that Ratatouille. ๐Ÿ˜†

This recipe originated with Cook’s Illustrated, and I’ve tweeked it a bit. And I can do that, since I’m the only one eating it around here – Peeps doesn’t care for eggplant. Or zucchini. Or even tomatoes or peppers. ๐Ÿ™„

OK, I’m not going to say this is “easy” – it will take the better part of the day. It is simple, though. It just takes time. And patience. I have found that the best food is usually food that’s prepared patiently – when you pay attention to the details, you’re almost never sorry. ๐Ÿ™‚

And, because I’m such a sport, I’ve posted a printable version of the recipe that follows here. :mrgreen:

So we’re going to start with 2 good-sized eggplants. Cut the stem and blossom ends off, and cut them into cubes – about an inch to an inch and a half is good – I like bigger chunks, myself. ๐Ÿ™‚ First, I sliced them up into 1-1ยฝ inch slices, then I just cut each slice into 6 or 9 cubes, depending on the diameter of the slice. ๐Ÿ˜€

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Then into a colander, tossed with a couple of teaspoons of table salt to draw liquid from the eggplant. Although we usually use kosher salt for just about every day-to-day application, it seems that table salt actually works better in this case – it’s smaller and takes less to evenly coat the eggplants. Let that sit in the colander, over a bowl, for a couple of hours, and if you’ve never purged eggplant before, you’ll be amazed by how much eggplant juice you’ll end up with! ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

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Meanwhile, I prepped the rest of the veggies:

Take two fairly decent sized zucchini, and cut them up essentially the same way as the eggplants – 1 to 1ยฝ inch cubes.

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Set that aside and go to work on a couple of medium to large, as-ripe-as-you-can-get tomatoes – again, about the same sized chunks.
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Rough chop a couple of onions and some green peppers – or whatever color peppers you want to use – I prefer green, and that’s what I picked up at the market. And of course, we mustn’t forget the garlic – 4 to 6 cloves. At least. :mrgreen:

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Got all that? Good. Mise en place is very important, you know. ๐Ÿ™‚

OK, now you can take a break until your eggplant has drained enough. Grab a beer or some other frosty beverage, because it’s gonna get hot in there. ๐Ÿ˜†

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First, when you come back, preheat the oven to 500ยฐF. The technical term would be “rippin’ hot.” Make sure the oven racks are adjusted to the medium-high and medium-low positions. Now for the fun part. You’re going to want to rinse the salt off the eggplant (wait, there’s more!), then literally squeeze it dry. Yeah, I know. ๐Ÿ™„

I lay the eggplant out on a terry-cloth hand towel, then set another on top and press each chunk until it feels firm and fairly dry. and really, it’s not as bad as it sounds. ๐Ÿ˜‰

You’ll probably have to do it in batches, unless you use a bath towel and have counter space to burn. Which I don’t. Just toss it into a big mixing bowl, along with the zucchini (remember the zucchini?), and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the veggies (just the eggplant and the zucchini, that is) until they’re just coated with oil, then dump onto two sprayed sheet pans – you want to be sure your pans have rims. It should be noted that I also roasted the peppers at this point, but, in hindsight (or foresight, because I’ll be doing this again before the end of the season!), I’d wait on the peppers and cook them along with the onions. So that’s what I’m going to tell you to do. ๐Ÿ™‚

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So. Sprinkle with salt, and into the oven for, ultimately, 40-50 minutes. You’re going to want to stir and rotate the pans, though, halfway through the cooking time. I’d use a metal spatula for that; even though we’ve oiled the veggies and sprayed the pans, there’s going to be some stickage. There always is. ๐Ÿ™„

The vegetables should be nicely roasted when you pull them from the oven. Give them one more turn with the metal spatula first, though, just to make sure nothing is severely sticking, then just set the pans aside, somewhere out of the way.

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Now take another couple of tablespoons of olive oil and dump into a heavy-bottomed pan – a dutch oven or the like. Get the oil hot, and carefully add the onions (and the peppers); reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently until onions are nicely caramelized – what we (and Alton Brown) like to call “GBD.” ๐Ÿ˜› This will take, with patience, about 20 minutes.

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While your onions are cooking, grab a couple of minutes to run out to the garden and cut some herbs. ๐Ÿ™‚

PhotobucketYou definitely need some fresh basil – lots of it – and a good bunch of fresh parsley. After that, it’s pretty much up to you.

I’ve got a sprig of rosemary, a sprig of Greek oregano, and a couple of sage leaves. If I’d bothered to plant thyme this year, I’d definitely add that, too.

Appropriately chop and/or chiffonade the herbage and just hold onto it.

Once the onions are nicely browned, add the garlic and cook for (are you ready for this?) about 30 seconds, just until it’s fragrant! Boy, we’re on the home stretch now!

Now you’ll stir in the tomatoes:

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Then the roasted vegetables:

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And finally, some kosher salt and coarse black pepper to taste, along with the chopped fresh herbs:

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And then just stir gently and heat through, and voilรก! Ratatouille!

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And just like any other stew, it will improve with time. I divided into lunch-sized containers and stashed in the fridge, to be reheated at my leisure. You could also freeze, and enjoy all that vegetable goodness at a later date, too! ๐Ÿ˜†

What can I say, other than this ratatouille is incredible. yummy.gif And it’s reasonably healthy, especially if it’s your actual meal. Try it – you’ll be happy you did, and your patience will be rewarded! ๐Ÿ˜†

Nutrition via Recipezaar:

Calories-254
Total Fat-14.5g

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