Eggplants — shiny, purple and beautiful — are abundant at local farmers markets now.
When searching for a way to prepare eggplant, you can traverse the map: Italian parmigiana, Lebanese baba ghannouj and, of course, French ratatouille.
Ratatouille combines a host of summer vegetables into one savory stew, and makes for an easy supper, no oven required.
Jacques Pepin's Ratatouille
Makes six servings.
"The New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook" (2007, St. Martin's Press)
1/4 cup virgin or extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
3 onions, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 large green bell pepper, cut in half, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large eggplant, trimmed at both ends, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
4 small zucchini, trimmed at both ends, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes 1 1/2 tsp. salt 6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced (about 3 tbsp.)
4 very ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 cup shredded fresh basil
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. When hot, add the onions and green pepper and saute for about 5 minutes over high heat. Then add the eggplant, zucchini, pepper flakes and salt, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking. There is enough moisture in the vegetables to keep the mixture from burning. Add the garlic and tomatoes and continue cooking, covered, for 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat, transfer to a serving bowl and cool to room temperature. Just before serving, stir in half the basil, sprinkle remaining basil on top, and garnish with a few tablespoons of olive oil and ground black pepper.
Note: Can be served hot, cold or at room temperature.