Old World Ratatouille
This is an old-world dish with deep, slow-cooked flavor. The traditional Italian version is called Pepernonata, and is made with eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onion, garlic, liberal amounts of olive oil, and a touch of flour to thicken the dish. I am a lover of many things Italian, and with all due respect draw this dish from their ways. It's good to salt the eggplant first, which draws out the bitter juices, though because it increases the saltiness of the dish, be mindful to scale back adding too much salt while it is cooking. The rosemary and bay leaf should be removed before serving and the addition of fresh herbs, turned in at the end makes the flavor bloom. This one is almost better the day after, when the favors marry and meld.
Excellent to layer with phyllo dough for an amazingly delicious Spanikopita or with a thin crusted pizza.
Yields: 6-8 servings
1 medium eggplant, peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 Roma or Plum tomatoes or 4 common tomatoes
2 medium zucchini
1 yellow onion
1 red onion
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3-inch sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons spelt flour (wheat flour may be used)
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 cups chopped basil
2-3 tablespoons fresh thyme
Peel the eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. Toss the eggplant with salt and place in a colander over a bowl for 1 hour to drain away bitter juices. Rinse the eggplant and squeeze gently. Rinsing it is a good idea to prevent over-salting the dish. P.S.: This step of salting is not entirely necessary, but worth the effort. It can be done a day ahead of time if necessary (the eggplant will brown a bit from oxidation, but be just fine to use).
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Dice the tomatoes roughly. This is a rustic dish and they do not have to be perfect and are almost better when irregular. Place in a large glass casserole dish.
Cut the top and bottom off the zucchini. Slice in half lengthwise and cut into ï¿½-inch pieces. Add to tomatoes.
Peel the onions. Cut in quarters and cut into ï¿½-inch slices. Add to dish.
Mince garlic and dice peppers (if using) and place in with other ingredients.
Toss in (prepared) eggplant, rosemary sprig and bay leaves. Drizzle in olive oil and toss gently.
Sprinkle with flour and gently toss in.
Bake for 30 minutes or until everything is savory and soft.
Allow to cool a bit. Fold in olive oil and season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Fold in basil and thyme just before serving (and donï¿½t forget to remove the rosemary and bay leaves).
Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The flavor is almost better the second day when everything has a chance to mingle and marry.