Friday, August 13, 2010

"my pants ain't getting no bigger"

the food: Ratatouille
the song: "Sissyneck" Beck*

Nerdy rant in 3...2...1:

I am giddy after seeing Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World last night. It's so good, people. I should offer the disclaimer that I've read the graphic novels and have been anticipating this movie for more than a year. My hope is that it translates as well for people that haven't read the books. If you're going in blind, just keep in mind that you're walking into a emo hipster video game. And it's awesome and perfectly done. Touche, Edgar Wright.

In honor of my favorite movie of the summer, I will share with you one of my favorite summertime dinners. Right after I show you my Scott Pilgrim avatar. Yes!

I heart her. My garden is on it's way out, as I knew it would be by this time of year. One thing that is still thriving, though, is my eggplant. I have about 6 plants, some purple globes, some long and white. They have produced like crazy with very little tending, and look pretty good after weeks of 100+ degree days.

Now for a secret...I don't even like eggplant that much. It's bitter and it takes a lot of work. Kind of like an evil ex (sorry, that was the last reference, I promise). But I keep planting it every summer so I have no excuse not to make ratatouille. Last summer I was able to make a pot of all homegrown ratatouille, except for the canned tomatoes. Of course, store bought vegetables work great, too. 

You can use your judgment about pre-salting the eggplant. Roasting the eggplant is usually enough to remove the bitterness. But I made it once when it should have been salted, and it was so bitter I couldn't eat it. Ever since, my eggplant gets salted. Live and learn.

There are definitely prettier versions of this dish, but I like this one. If you've seen the movie by the same name, you know that ratatouille is peasant food. I like the hands-on quality of this meal. It isn't proper, it's earthy. Everytime I make this recipe, I have a moment right before it comes off the stove where I think "Meh, what's the big deal? This is just a bunch of vegetables." Then I take a bite and remember. When you sop it up with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a good crusty bread, magic happens.

adapted from The Kitchn

2 medium eggplants, cut into 1" cubes
3 medium zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1" cubes
olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 sweet bell peppers, roughly chopped
4 - 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tablespoons fresh basil
salt and pepper

Salt the eggplant cubes and set them in a colander to release their liquid for at least 30 minutes. Rinse off the salt and press the cubes against the counter top between two clean kitchen towels to get out as much moisture as possible. 

Combine the eggplant with the zucchini and toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat the pieces. Arrange the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet (use two sheets if necessary), and roast at 450 for a total of 30 - 40 minutes, stirring the cubes every 10 minutes. When the eggplant has completely softened, remove trays and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of oil in a deep sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and saute until the onion is completely translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the bell peppers and saute until no longer crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the thyme, bay leaf, and the tomatoes with juice into the pot and stir to combine. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes have started to break down.

Add the roasted eggplant and zucchini to the pot and simmer until the tomatoes and eggplant have almost completely broken down into a pulpy sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Serve with bread and olive oil with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.


*Beck wrote the songs for Scott Pilgrim's band. One more reason to love this movie.

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