I have discovered that I LOVE eggplant in this ratatouille! This is major news. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate eggplant? I can recall being served eggplant in my childhood, and every memory raises such revulsion, I have hardly ever partaken of eggplant as an adult, and only when it would have been unforgivable bad manners to refuse. But I never enjoyed it.
That is, until last summer, our first year of the CSA. We received little baby eggplants in our CSA box about this time last year. I sneered a bit, but I had committed to trying to use EVERYTHING we got in the boxes, so I looked for recipes to use the hated eggplant. And found what looked like a reasonable recipe for ratatouille. So we tried it. And it was heavenly. Even with the eggplant.
We received eggplant in our box last week, just before we headed out for 2 weeks of vacation at the family cottage, so the eggplant (and other veggies) came with us to the cottage. Tonight, I made a highly adulterated version of that ratatouille, and it was……heavenly. It is not the pure French recipe for ratatouille, I’ll warn you, but it is seriously scrumptious—it tempts one to crawl into the casserole to lick out the last molecule of delicious goodness. This recipe is good for about 10 people, or for some leftovers—and I’ll give you a suggestion for the leftovers at the end.
One of the things I think is important in making ratatouille, is to make separate layers of stuff which get layered into a casserole and then baked until the juices from the top layer work their way down to the bottom layer.
Start by dicing 2 baby eggplants into ½” cubes. Soak these in 6 c. water and 2 TBSP salt for 20-30 minutes. During this time, prep the onions and garlic. Before adding eggplant to the pan, drain it and let it sit for 5 minutes to dry.
In about 3 TBSP of olive oil, sautée 2 medium onions (I used Vidalia), diced, and 2 TBSP minced garlic, until translucent. Add 3 TBSP basil pesto, and stir until uniformly distributed throughout onions. Mince ½ bunch of fresh parsley and add to pan. Add 4 ounces of prosciutto, diced finely, and keep stirring. After about 5 minutes, add 1/3 to ½ cup of dry white wine. Add eggplant. Add 1-2 ears’ worth of sweet corn. Add a pinch of sea salt and pepper as desired. Stir occasionally, and allow mixture to simmer until juices cook down. Spoon this mixture into the bottom of a large casserole or Dutch oven. Sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese over it.
In the same pan you used for the onions/eggplant mixture, without wiping it out, add a few more TBSP of olive oil. Add 5-6 small zucchini and yellow squash, diced into ½” slices or chunks. Add another 2 TBSP of pesto, another pinch of salt and pepper, and stir for 5 minutes. Spoon mixture into casserole on top of onions/eggplant mixture, and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese.
Dice 2 green bell peppers, 1 yellow and 1 red pepper, and 2 large ripe tomatoes. Sautée these in same pan as the first 2 layers. Add 1 tsp. dry thyme, another pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally until tomatoes are broken down and most of liquid is cooked off. Layer over the first 2 layers, and top with Parmesan cheese.
Cover casserole and bake for 20 minutes at 400ºF.
Serve hot with fresh flatbread or sourdough.
Leftover hint: we put the leftovers into a blender and whirled briefly before putting them into the fridge. The plan is to heat it tomorrow night with some added heavy cream, to make a fabulous creamy vegetable soup.
P.S. If you want this to be vegetarian, you naturally just leave out the prosciutto.