recipes by Leslie Coutant
It's summer and there are more fresh vegetable available; all coming out in all directions at once - flavor, color, smell. So, what de you do about that eggplant on your left? You know, that big, shiny, purple pear . . . well, they're used a lot in Near Eastern and Greek cooking. But, since they are not too exotically priced, and since they flourish tastefully in meat-less as well as meated concoctions, there's no need to be intimidated by them. They're fairly helpless. A good summer dish, which can be served with cold or hot variations, is Ratatouille (pronounced ra-ta-too-ee). The only utensils you need to make it are; a good frying pan (preferably cast iron), a wooden spatula, a hot plate, knife and cutting board.
Ingredients for 2 servings are:
4-6 tablespoons olive oil (Greek or Spanish is best)
2 cloves of garlic (peel off husks and slice fine)
2 green peppers, cut in strips
2-4 shallots, sliced (scallions are a good, inexpensive substitute)
1 large eggplant, cubed, with skin left on
1 large zucchini, cubed, with skin left on
4 tomatoes, cut in quarters or eighths (or small can of tomato paste)
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
a pinch of rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste(as they say), and to make it worth your eating, use only fresh vegetables.
Now. Heat the oil (over medium fire) in the pan. Add the sliced garlic and simmer till the garlic browns slightly. Then, layer in the eggplant, zucchini, shallots and peppers. Cover this for about 5-10 minutes. Mix the herbs and spices in, making sure the oil and juices are evenly distributed. Cook at a medium to low temperature for about 10 more minutes, or until everything's been cooked soft and the juices have a sauce-like consistency. Cool it, and eat it. Voila!
However. . .if you want to eat it hot, you should serve it with cooked brown rice or millet or bulghur wheat. Bulghur and millet can both be made more tasty by toasting them in olive or corn germ oil (about 5 tablespoons per cup of grain), then adding water (at a 2 to 1 ratio) and fresh chopped parsley. A little saffron is a nice addition to the grain (it is best to get your saffron for free, as it is very expensive). You can peel the eggplant if you absolutely cannot abide the slight bitterness of the skin - but you'Il lose nutrients.
Adding some sliced, fresh mushrooms with the other vegetables can lift the whole dish into the paradise above the humble-but-wholesome Vegetable Kingdom.