My husband is eating out all week with job candidates, so I’m taking the opportunity to eat eggplant.
The first ratatouille, or more specifically “Ratatouille Provençale,” I ever made was from my Joy of Cooking (1967, p. 278). When I was young, I didn’t know anything about eggplant, and was surprised to see so many recipes for it in this book. The only eggplant recipes I had seen on TV were the breaded and fried sliced variety, usually smothered in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. That did not look appetizing to me, but more like the cooks were trying to cover up something that was either tasteless or bad-tasting. When I finally decided to try this casserole, I did feel like the flavors were exotic and rich, even spicy.
I have since learned that recipes vary, and while tonight’s is very close to that first one, I’m adding some mushrooms and bacon, but skipping the zucchini, and the peppers and onions were roasted on the grill last night, which should add a nice twist to the dish. Next time, I’ll try grilling all the ingredients and then doing a quick combine and simmer at the end. Parmesan cheese and olive oil will round out the flavors, but I will miss the parsley I lost in my recent freezer disaster. Some dried marjoram will fill in for the herb.
Basically a stew, but all the ingredients should be cooked until just done and not mushy. I cook each ingredient separately, and then combine at a simmer for just about 5 minutes, to keep the flavors distinctive. I would not use the 45 minute simmer mentioned in the recipe pictured above.
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 slices thick bacon, cooked to chewy doneness and roughly chopped
1 medium eggplant, cut in half inch dice, about 2 1/2-3 cups
1-2 small onions, roughly chopped
1-2 bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, grated or minced or roasted
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
13 oz good quality crushed tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved (I used Cirio crushed tomatoes)
olive oil for sautéing
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated for garnish
salt and pepper to taste (I like to season each layer lightly)
As mentioned, my onions and peppers had been roasted on the grill, then the peppers were peeled and both were chopped; otherwise, I would cook them using the following process:
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and allow to heat for a minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and let sauté until brown without stirring. Stir for another minute or two, then remove to dish. I like to cook mushrooms first in a clean pan for most dishes, so they are allowed to brown and develop flavors without absorbing those of the other ingredients.
- Add the bacon slices to the same pan and cook over medium heat to desired doneness. I like chewy bacon, not crisp. remove to cutting board and chop.
- To pan with bacon drippings that is still over medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon more olive oil, then the diced eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. The eggplant will absorb all the fat and begin to appear translucent. Remove to a large bowl.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons more olive oil over medium heat, then the onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes, or until done to your liking.
- Add back the eggplant and mushrooms. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the drained tomatoes and marjoram, adding any of the reserved tomato juice as needed for a moist but not soupy consistency. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until heated through.
- Remove to serving dish and add cooked bacon and grated cheese.
Save some for topping your scrambled eggs in the morning.