My son called me last week from North Carolina. He had unused zucchini, peppers, and eggplant left from his farmshare and wanted suggestions on what to do with them. I replied that I had just looked in my refrigerator and had the same ingredients waiting to be transformed into dinner.
For people of a certain generation, those who grew up with the Moosewood Cookbook on their bookshelf, seeing those ingredients immediately triggers the memories of a dish made popular in the 1980s, Ratatouille. This hearty vegetable stew is loaded with the bounty of the summer harvest - zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes.
Everyone has his or her own version of it – and everyone’s is delicious. You just can’t go wrong with homegrown veggies, tomatoes, and herbs. This version uses canned tomatoes for a more for a thicker combination, but if you have fresh, ripe tomatoes feel free to substitute them.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red or yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 (28-ounce) can whole or diced tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional
In a large stockpot over medium heat, add oil. Sauté the onion and both bell peppers for 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the eggplant and zucchini and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and their juice and stir to combine, breaking up large pieces if necessary. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Add the basil and stir to combine. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
To add protein and texture add a can of chickpeas or a poached or fried egg.
For something a little creamier, top with a crumbled goat cheese or a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
For a little heat, sauté a jalapeño pepper with the bell peppers or add red pepper flakes with the garlic.
For a variety of Shakshuka, a Middle Eastern egg and tomato casserole, make indentations in the stew, crack in eggs and transfer to a preheated 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes, or until the eggs whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.