Harvest Ratatouille with Bacon

Nothing says Mediterranean more than the classic ratatouille. This spin on an old favorite, amped up with chunks of crispy thick bacon, make it a robust meal.

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1 medium-sized eggplant (about 1½ lbs)

2 T olive oil

3-4 medium zucchini (or yellow squash or both, about 1½lbs), thickly sliced

1½ lbs. tomatoes, skin removed and roughly chopped

1 medium sweet bell pepper, largely diced

1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped

12oz. thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T Herbs de Provence

Sea salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 425. Peel strips of the eggplant skin from top to bottom, leaving about an inch between each peel. Cut eggplant into large chunks . (If you prefer to leave the peel on, that’s fine, and likewise, removing it entirely is fine). Transfer the eggplant on to a cookie sheet, salt lightly and drizzle with olive oil. Cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.

 

While the eggplant is cooking, heat a Dutch oven (or a large deep skillet) and sauté the bacon until fairly crisp. Transfer pieces to a bowl. If there is more than 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings left in the pan, pour off the excess. Add the onion, garlic and peppers into the Dutch oven. Cook until lightly softened, add the zucchini and Herbs de Provence. Cook the zucchini until it begins to soften, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, drop in the tomatoes to release the skin. Rinse immediately in cold water and peel the skin from the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, transfer them to the Dutch oven and cook for about 5 minutes.

 

Remove the eggplant from the oven, add it to the Dutch oven; add the bacon pieces. Let the ratatouille cook together another 20 minutes; adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper. At this point the ratatouille can sit in the Dutch oven off the heat for several hours, allowing the flavors to meld. Serves 6-8.

 

 


Eggplant and Red Pepper Terrine

eggplant-redpepper-terrine

 

This lovely terrine makes a great first course, or, served warmed in the oven, a filling side dish.  From Simply Recipes.

 

Terrine ingredients:

1 large jar roasted red peppers
2 large, firm eggplants (about 2 lbs)
1/4 C oil – olive oil or grapeseed oil
1½ C loosely-packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 tsalt
½ t freshly ground black pepper
8 oz of fresh Mozzarella, cut into 1/8-in slices, about 14 slices

Raw tomato sauce:

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 to 3 ripe tomatoes (1 1/4 lbs), chunked
1/4 C virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
½  t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Heat a grill or grill pan until very hot. Cut the eggplants into ½-inch slices and slices on both sides with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Cook the eggplant slices on the grill, covered, for 4 minutes on each side, until they are nicely browned and softened. While the eggplant is grilling, soften the parsley by blanching it in boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds. Remove, cool under cold water, drain.

Line a terrine mold (loaf pan) with plastic wrap. Arrange a layer of eggplant in the bottom of the mold and top it with about a third each of red pepper pieces, parsley, and cheese. Repeat, beginning and ending with a layer of eggplant, until all the ingredients are used. Cover with plastic wrap and press on the wrap to compact the mixture. Refrigerate.

Prepare the sauce. Place the garlic and tomatoes in a blender and blend until smooth. Optional, push the mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. Add the remainder of the sauce ingredients. Mix well.

To serve, pour some of the sauce on a large platter and unmold the terrine in the center. Cut it into slices and serve with the remainder of the sauce.


Grilled Eggplant Dressed in Olives & Orange

eggplant anchovy

This is another variation on grilled eggplant, from the good folks at Fine Cooking. The densely flavored vinaigrette can be drizzled on lamb, fish or chicken, or on oven-roasted vegetables.

For the vinaigrette:

2 anchovy fillets (preferably salt packed), rinsed
1 small clove garlic
Kosher salt
1/4 C black olives, such as Niçoise or Kalamata, rinsed well, pitted, and chopped finely
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 T fresh orange juice
2 T red-wine vinegar; more to taste
½ t finely chopped orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper

chopped mint for garnish

For the eggplant:

1 large globe eggplant (about 1 lb.), trimmed and cut into ½-inch-thick rounds
3 T extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
Kosher salt

Make the vinaigrette:

Mash anchovy and garlic, adding a pinch of salt as needed to make a paste. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Whisk in the olives, olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, and orange zest. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more red wine vinegar, if necessary.

Grill the eggplant:

Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire or use a grill pan, set at medium-high. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt. Grill until golden-brown grill marks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the eggplant and grill until tender and well marked on the second sides, 3 to 4 minutes more. The interior should be grayish and soft rather than white and hard.  Just before serving, whisk the vinaigrette again and spoon it over the grilled eggplant—you may not need it all—or serve on the side. Garnish with chopped mint.


Grilled Eggplant with Red Pepper Relish

eggplant with roasted red peppers

This recipe will convert eggplant doubters into fans. Don’t overcook the eggplant – it should be grilled until done all the way through and pulled quickly before it begins to fall apart. And if you don’t want to grill, eggplant rounds can be oven-roasted. The relish, which can be made ahead of time to speed preparation of this dish,  really underscores the flavors inherent in the eggplant – the sweetness and nuttiness – while pleasing the palate of the steak lover.  I know this one is a winner because husband Joel – never a fan of eggplant – went for seconds.  This recipe comes from Fine Cooking, with modifications from us.

For the relish:

1 T dried currants
½ T red-wine vinegar
½ T balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
Coarse salt
1 large roasted bell pepper, plus juice from pepper
2 T pine nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1½ T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T chopped fresh oregano
Pinch cayenne; more to taste
3 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

For the eggplant:

1 large globe eggplant (about 1 lb.), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
3 T extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
Coarse salt

Make the relish:

Combine the currants and both vinegars in a small bowl. Mash garlic and salt into a paste. Cut roasted  pepper into very small dice and put in a medium bowl. Add 1-2 T juice from the pepper. Add the currants and vinegar, garlic paste, pine nuts, olive oil, marjoram, and cayenne and stir. Season to taste with salt and cayenne.

Grill the eggplant:

Prepare a medium-high charcoal or gas grill fire or use a grill pan, set at medium-high. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt. Grill until golden-brown grill marks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the eggplant and grill until tender and well marked on the second sides, 3 to 4 minutes more. The interior should be grayish and soft rather than white and hard. When ready to serve, stir the relish again and spoon it over the grilled eggplant, or serve it on the side. Garnish with parsley, if using.


Smoky Eggplant & Bean Dip

eggplant dip

 

 

This lovely dip comes from our friends at Fine Cooking, with slight adaptations.  We are fans of anchovies, so for us, that ingredient isn’t optional. In this dip, the anchovy taste is very subtle, providing more of an umami layer, which makes the dish more compelling.  If you’re uncertain about it, on your first try of this recipe, replace the whole, mashed anchovy filets with a teaspoon of anchovy paste, which will give you less of the anchovy.

2 lb. eggplant, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
1 clove garlic
1 can cannellini beans (13.5 oz), drained and rinsed
2 T fresh lemon juice; more to taste
6 T olive oil
1 T chopped fresh mint, plus 1 T small leaves for garnish
2 t chopped fresh oregano
2 T pine nuts, toasted

Position a rack 4 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler to high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and grease lightly with oil. Rub the eggplant all over with 2 T of the oil. Arrange the eggplant, flesh side down, on the baking sheet and broil until the skin is charred and the eggplant flesh is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, if using anchovies, mash them into a paste with the side of a chef’s knife. Roughly chop the garlic, sprinkle it with a generous pinch of kosher salt, and mash it into a paste with the side of a chef’s knife. Transfer the anchovy and garlic pastes to a food processor and add the beans, 3-4 T of the oil, and 1 Tbs. water. Purée until smooth. When the eggplant is done, set it aside to cool briefly. Scrape the eggplant flesh from the skin and add the flesh to the puréed beans in the food processor, along with the lemon juice, chopped mint, and oregano. Pulse briefly to form a chunky dip. Adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, or lemon juice to taste. Serve sprinkled with the pine nuts and mint leaves, with toasted pita crisps on the side for dipping.


September is Eggplant Month

eggplant01With its silky texture and nutty flavor, eggplant always has been a favorite of ours.  But the glossy-skinned nightshade fruit seems to attract as many detractors as afficionados – people either love them or just don’t get them. In fact, those who are confounded by eggplants are inevitably folks who’ve never had a chance to taste them done right. My absolute favorite way to make eggplant is simple: Cut them up in chunks, toss them with olive oil, chopped garlic and a smidge of salt, and roast them into the oven. Of course, the eggplant has to be firm and not overripe, with its characteristic high sheen.  It can be peeled or not peeled, depending on how you like it – I like the skin, so I don’t peel. Once roasted thus, the chunks can be used in all sorts of ways – or eaten as is (my fave). They can be tossed with pasta, to which you also add chopped herbs, such as parsley, mint or basil, a squeeze of lemon juice to bring out the sweetness of the eggplant, and topped with copious amounts of feta cheese. Or add the roasted chunks to a tossed salad, as did our host at book club a couple of weeks ago, resulting in our discussing the food way more than the book. For more ideas on eggplants, come back to this space over the next few days, or better yet, join us at the US Botanic Garden, at the foot of Capitol Hill in Washington DC or at Brookside Garden in Wheaton. This is eggplant month and we’ll be doing lots of fun things with them.

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One large eggplant
1/3 C olive oil, more as needed
3 large garlic cloves, minced
½ t coarse salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel eggplant if desired, cut into similar-sized chunks.  Place in large plastic bag.  Add olive oil and toss so all eggplant chunks are coated in all olive oil.  Ad more as needed. Mix garlic and salt.  Add to eggplant chunks and toss to cover.  Spread eggplant on a large cookie sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil, or use a non-stick cookie sheet. Roast
20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Serve hot or room temperature.