This is the time of year when I go crazy at the farmers' market. I'm like a kid at the proverbial candy store, filling my bags with as much gorgeous produce as I can. I should go with one hand tied behind my back so that I am limited to what I can carry (Gabe, don't get any ideas). Instead, I prefer if someone else comes to keep me company and to help carry. After all, the leaves will be falling off the trees before we know it, so we have to make the most of it.
Ratatouille is the perfect dish to make using all of that produce. It uses eggplant, tomato, zucchini, and peppers, and the flavors are excellent together. The saffron adds warmth to the dish, while the basil and parsley, added at the end, keep the flavors fresh. It can be eaten either warm or cold, depending on your mood and the thermometer outside.
I made this while we were on vacation along with some quinoa with the thought that I would just keep it on hand in the refrigerator to have for lunch. It didn't last more than a couple of days, though. I don't think the children even tried it. I'll have to make another batch while the veggies are at the height of their season. The only question is whether I'll share.
Second helping: Red Wine Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Crostini
Thirds: Pasta with Ricotta and Summer Herbs
This recipe is infinitely variable. Use whatever vegetables you have in the quantities you like, and it will be delicious. I like the technique of cooking the vegetables separately to bring out their individual flavors, but if you're in a hurry, you can cook them together.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
2 medium onions
4 garlic cloves
2 medium eggplants, skin still on, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
4 fresh medium-sized tomatoes, diced
pinch of saffron
1/3 cup torn basil
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
cooked quinoa or couscous for serving (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large pan (I used my Creuset stock pot). Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes. Remove from the pan. If the pan is dry, add another splash of olive oil. Add the eggplant and a pinch of salt and cook until the eggplant has softened, about 8 minutes. Remove from the pan. Again, if the pan is dry, add more olive oil. Add the zucchini and a pinch of salt and cook until it is tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the onions, garlic, and eggplant back to the pan, along with the tomatoes and the saffron. Cook until the vegetables are meltingly soft, about an hour. Just before serving, add the basil and parsley and stir.
Serve hot or cold, over couscous or quinoa, if you like.