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RECIPE: Ratatouille <T>

Brenda Hampton asked for "something uncomplicated and interesting 
with [to do with] eggplant".

Ratatouille (say rat-a-twee) is from Provence and represents the 
simplicity of the cooking of that region of France. This is a recipe 
which I have modified from the one in _The New Laurel's Kitchen_. 


1-2 Tbsp of sauteing liquid
1 large onion
1 green pepper
3-6 cloves fresh garlic (to taste)
1 large eggplant
2 medium zucchini
1 15-oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste (say 1/4 tsp)
2 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano (leaves)

Dice eggplant into 1 inch cubes (sometimes I peel it first, sometimes 
I don't). Cut zucchini length-wise into quarters and then across into 
1 inch pieces. Chop onion coarsely, and cut green pepper into 1 inch
squares. Mince garlic.

In a large pot saute the onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook slowly
until the onion is soft and begins to color. Stir in eggplant and
zucchini and saute a few minutes more. This is best done at a medium
temperature and doesn't require much liquid, as the vegetables will
produce their own. Drain whatever liquid you can from the canned
tomatoes and add them to the pot. Cover and simmer at a low
temperature for 30 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until all the
vegetables are well cooked. Uncover and turn up the heat to
evaporate some of the liquid, stirring as necessary. Serve over
brown rice. 

That's the basic recipe. You can make additions or substitutions
depending on what's at hand. When there is basil in the garden, I
chop up as much as a cupful and use it instead of the dried basil. A 
quarter cup of fresh oregano substitutes well for the dried. I often 
add a red or yellow bell pepper (cutting it like the green one and 
adding it at the same time). Sometimes I add (or substitute for the 
zucchini) one or two yellow squash. Often I put in mushrooms (the 
ordinary white ones or something fancier, sometimes even portabellos 
(they'll make the dish chewier)). I usually put in a jalapeno, 
sometimes whole (and then retrieved at the end), sometimes seeded and 
minced. If I have time to let this simmer longer, I'll put in a few 
sundried tomatoes (sliced in little pieces and added early). If 
you want the sauce even thicker, dice a potato and put it in when you 
add the zucchini. If you want the eggplant firmer, wait 10-15 minutes 
before adding it. Experiment.

As to the sauteing liquid, I use a small amount of the unmentionable 
one (extra virgin, first cold pressing) because I think its flavor is 
requisite for this dish. I have tried balsamic vinegar, which I think 
is not subtle enough. A veggie broth works well, if you keep the 
temperature low enough to prevent sticking. You can even forego a 
sauteing liquid altogether if you go slowly until the natural liquids 
begin to appear.

Hope you like it.

Bob Simmons
Houston, TX