We are having a cool, damp fall here in SE Michigan, so eggplant season in the Farmer's Market will be short this year, but lots of folks will not be having this problem, so it seems like a good time to talk about eggplant, its potential nutritional benefits, prudent eating, and yummy meals. At this time of year, you can often find enormous eggplants in the market for a buck. When you put one together with some onions, bell peppers (use the color you prefer) and tomatoes (use the type you prefer) all of which are also in ready and inexpensive supply at this time, you can produce a truly wonderful vegetarian dinner. I
Eggplant remains a mysterious vegetable to me in some ways - and I'm not talking about the appearance, flavor, or whatever here. I'm talking about the preparation. Salt it, or don't salt it for example, what's with that? Do it for big ones, but not little ones? For old ones, but for not really fresh ones? True confession: I have never salted an eggplant before cooking it. In fact, when I make ratatouille, I parboil it in the microwave with a cup of wine before I cook the stew to save time! So, let's take a moment here for the eggplant purists to get over it, and then move right along.
Other things to love about ratatouille:
You can serve it over pasta, you can serve it over rice, you can serve it over polenta. I suppose you might even serve it over mashed potatoes, though I personally am having some trouble getting my head around that. Leftover ratatouille makes a great substitute for tomato sauce on pizza, and you don't need to put anything else on there, since it already has eggplant, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc. It make a good calzone too, although it's a bit more trouble. I just realized you could probably also cook some leftover ratatouille into a risotto! And, it freezes really well, so if you double or triple this recipe, you can just freeze the fall bounty.
1 good sized eggplant (or several of the small oriental ones)
1 or 2 bell peppers, cut into thin slices (I prefer red, but you can use any color you like or a combination)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion diced
1-2 TB good quality olive oil
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
Several large ripe tomatoes, or 1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen fire roasted)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme and 1/2 tsp rosemary, or you can use an herbes de Provence blend
1/2 to 1 cup dry white wine
Cut open the bell peppers, and remove the seeds and pith. Slice into thin strips. If you are using fresh tomatoes, chop them coarsely. Peel and dice the onions; peel and mince the garlic. If you are using a purple eggplant you can choose to peel it (I do this only if I'm cooking for fussier eaters who may be turned off by the purple skin) but there's no need with the more tender skinned pale colored varieties. Cut the eggplant into 1/2" to 1" dice. Put the eggplant and the wine in a covered microwave dish and cook for 8-12 minutes (depends on your microwave).
While the eggplant is in the microwave, saute the diced onions and minced garlic in the olive oil for 2 or 3 minutes in a large pan that you can cover. Then, add the bell pepper strips and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple more minutes. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and then the microwaved eggplant, along with any liquid in the dish. Put the lid on your pan, and simmer for as long you like, but at least 20-30 minutes. Serve with rice, polenta, couscous, etc. and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. With a tossed salad full of fall greens, you have a great vegetarian meal! Dee Dee.