It is a stunningly beautiful day today in Boston. The Earl rains have stopped; the air is clear; there’s an energetic and energizing wind that makes the walnut tree outside the window of my study sway and bend this way and that–a near-perfect day, really, after the unending heat and humidity of the past weeks and months and the downpours of Earl.
Autumn is almost here. My local farmers’ market goes to the end of October. Before it is all over, I want to make one last ratatouille. My recipe is very simple and calls, as always, for the best vegetables you can find (Japanese eggplants are the best for this dish, smaller zucchini, red/green/yellow/purple peppers, tomatoes), top quality olive oil and garlic, some basil or thyme or parsley, and a mid-sized dutch oven. I do not use onions. Nor do I cook the herbs with the vegetables, preferring to sprinkle them on top of the cooked–and cooled–vegetable mixture.
It’s a painfully simple dish, at least my version of it. Cut up the eggplants and the zucchini into into 1.5 in cubes. The various peppers can be cut into 1 inch strips, and the tomatoes can be sliced (after you peel them) likewise. Use as much or as little garlic cloves as you want; you can keep them whole or slice them.
In a frying pan, heat a generous quantity of olive oil. When the oil is hot, sauté the eggplants and set them aside on a paper towel. Do the same with the zucchini, and set it aside. Likewise with the peppers. Then, very gently place the eggplants first, followed by the zucchini and then the peppers in the dutch oven. Add the garlic cloves, and then the sliced tomatoes. Cook on very low heat until the mixture is done. Don’t overcook. Let it cool to room temperature and add the herbs–just enough to give it a nice aroma. The vegetables end up having a mild sweet taste which comes, I think, from the Japanese eggplant.
Serve with basmati rice or cracked wheat (bulghur) pilaf and yogurt drink (than, in Armenian) or with fish or a meat dish. I prefer it without the meat or fish, by itself with pilaf, a yogurt of some sort (solid or drink), black olives, and good bread.
As with all olive oil dishes, ratatouille is better after it has settled for a day. And, of course, it can be served in winter, and warm.