Monday, July 16, 2012

One Great . . . zucchini and eggplant dish

It was a typical Cook's Illustrated recipe, for an Italian vegetable stew called Ciambotta, flavored with a quickie pesto called pestata. Yes, it had long directions and a lengthy list of ingredients. But in my summer-packed kitchen, I thought I had them all - basil, eggplants, onions, potatoes, zucchini.

Except -- uh-oh -- no canned tomatoes, which is what was supposed to provide the liquid to turn it into a stew. And there was all that time hanging out in a hot kitchen. I wasn't crazy about that idea at the end of a long weekend.

Time to innovate. Ditch the potatoes, tomato paste and canned tomatoes. Keep the pestata, zucchini and the trick of pre-cooking the diced eggplant in the microwave to dry them out and give them a head start.

We ended up with a flavorful summer side dish, sort of a zippy and shorter version of ratatouille. It's definitely versatile. You could toss it with pasta for a vegetarian summer supper, or add some broth and turn it into a simple soup with bread on the side.

And more of those summer vegetables will find a home.

Short-Cut Ratatouille
Adapted (very adapted) from the May/June 2012 issue of Cook's Illustrated.

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Eggplants (I used about 4 of the long, skinny ones; aim for enough to have 2 cups of peeled, diced eggplant)
About 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Cooking spray
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large tomato, cored and diced, or several plum tomatoes, diced

Combine the basil, oregano, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor or blender. Pulse to chop it all. With motor running, drizzle in the olive oil to make a juicy sauce. Set aside.

Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss with the salt. Spread a couple of coffee filters on a plate and spread the eggplant on the plate. Spritz with cooking spray and microwave for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 minutes. You want to soften the eggplant and let it start cooking.

Heat the 4 tablespoons olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet. Add the eggplant and the onion and saute, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and continue cooking, stirring often, about 5 or 6 minutes, until everything is softening up. Stir in the tomato and cook another minute or two.

Stir in the pestata and saute quickly to finish, mixing everything together. Taste and add a little more salt if needed.

Makes about 4 servings.


robw222 said...

This sounds great... I am a little late to the party on this note, but I was recently trying to figure out what to do with some eggplant , zuchinni, and summer squash I needed to use before they went bad. I peeled, sliced , salted, drained then oven roasted the eggplant, sliced and roasted the squashes and also sliced red bell pepper and sweet onion to use as a base for a veggie lasagna, using canned crushed tomatoes seasoned with fresh basil and garlic for the sauce. I call it ratatouille lasagna. I froze it and sent it to the beach with my sister, aunt, cousin and her family. It was a big hit.

Anonymous said...

That sounds great, Rob. Thanks for sharing.