Unlike some people, I’ve never been captivated by cooked tomatoes. I think they’re just fine as they are, thank you. That’s why most of the time I’d prefer a Caprese salad, panzanella, or something of that sort. It seems to me that the majority of people are the other way around, and I cannot fathom why. Fresh tomatoes taste like summer, cooked tomatoes taste like dirty bilge water (auto correct turned this to bile water, hmm, that too?). That’s my way of looking at it anyway. But thankfully, this ratatouille isn’t swimming in tomato sauce. It’s mostly zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms (I didn’t want peppers) lightly bound by the tomatoes.
What I find wonderful about blogging, among other things, is that you can write all your random thoughts and someone will read them. Things you wouldn’t normally strike up conversation about you can write down, and someone will look at. I mean, how else would anyone know that I prefer fresh tomatoes to cooked ones. Ooh! I got an idea. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all students were required to start an online journal about something they liked, their life, whatever. Everyone would be required to read, say, five posts from different people a day, just to get to know their classmates better. Sometimes I feel like I know bloggers I’ve never met better than people I’ve gone to school with my whole life. A blog is a personal thing, so you can actually write what you want to and not feel like you have to live up to any standards or assumptions. Okay, getting off track here…
Back to ratatouille! Now the Joy of Cooking recipe used a lot of oil, didn’t remove water from the eggplant, used a bay leaf, and used peppers. All these things seemed like they would make the end result flat. Thus, I took up the sword of destiny and vowed to conquer the recipe! And voila! Like that I have produced perfect ratatouille. Well, what I think is pretty good ratatouille. But you may not like so much eggplant, or so little tomato. So good ahead. Adapt. Tweak. Make changes as you want so you end up with your prefect ratatouille. Maybe someday I’ll read about it and realize we really have more in common than I had ever imagined.
Adapted from Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Edition
1/4 cup olive oil, split in half
2 medium-sized eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 medium-sized zucchinis, sliced thinly
12 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced thinly
3 small onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups peeled and seeded chopped fresh tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
Salt eggplant liberally and set in a colander over a bowl for 45 minutes to an hour. Once in a while, turn eggplant around and press to remove juices. At the end of the time period, do this multiple times, then turn out onto paper towels. Use more paper towels to press down on the eggplant and extract more juice.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a dutch oven. Add the zucchini and cook until some of the zucchini is just starting to turn tender. Then add the eggplant and toss. Cook until the eggplant is just tender and remove to a large plate or bowls. In the empty dutch oven add the remaining oil and onions. Cook until tender, then add mushrooms and garlic. Once they have cooked and their juices have thickened, add the tomatoes and thyme. Cook for a few minutes on low heat with the top on. Then add the eggplant and zucchini and cover. Cook until all the vegetables are done, then stir in basil and olives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.