Nothing beats fresh ratatouille made from your own garden-fresh vegetables. There’s something profoundly flavourful when the products are fresh picked and immediately turned into a recipe.
Overgrown zucchini? Sometimes during a particularly hot spell, zucchini can grow from not-ready-to-be-picked to mammoth-sized almost overnight. What to do? Short of grating every cauliflower-sized patty pan or enormous green zucchini into containers to freeze for baking, we’ve taken another approach.
On our farm, we harvest overgrown zucchini, cut them crosswise into thick slices, and nickname them “steaks.” It’s a vegetarian dinner in minutes.
Lightly brush steaks with oil and season with salt, pepper, and chopped herbs, if you wish. Grill both sides just until steaks are hot and edges golden but still somewhat firm.
Serve with Roasted Ratatouille spooned overtop, or spread with Kale and Walnut Pesto (see recipe) and a smattering of cheese. Or serve with shredded fresh garden greens and tahini lemon dressing drizzled overtop with chopped nuts. There are so many variations and possibilities, I no longer moan when they suddenly appear in epic glory.
Tip: Can be refrigerated for several days, or freeze in small containers for a couple of months.
Ratatouille has a myriad of uses, especially when prepared in fine dice as done here. Spoon onto crostini and top with crumbled goats’ cheese as an appetizer. Add to a saucepan along with enough stock and serve hot as a soup with ziti pasta noodles. It’s delicious chilled and served at a picnic. The possibilities are endless.
1 large sweet onion, chopped
12 garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped if large
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 – 10 in (25 cm) zucchinis, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup (80 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 tsp (1 mL) sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lb (450 g) unpeeled eggplant, trimmed and diced
1/2 cup (125 mL) low-sodium vegetable stock or tomato juice (optional)
28 oz (796 mL) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, including juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) crushed dried red chilies
1/2 tsp (2 mL) fennel seed, crushed
Arugula and grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 500 F (260 C). Position oven rack at top level. Lightly oil large baking sheet and set aside.
In large bowl, combine chopped onion, garlic, bell peppers, and zucchini. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil, and sprinkle with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat evenly, and spread out in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Bake on top rack in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally for even roasting. (Be careful when opening oven, as escaping steam from roasting vegetables can scald.)
Meanwhile, to release some of the bitter juices from eggplant, toss with salt and place in sieve. Top with plate just small enough to fit snugly inside sieve. Place a weight on top, such as 28 oz (796 mL) can tomatoes. Place in sink to drain for 30 minutes. Remove plate. Rinse eggplant thoroughly with cold running water to remove salt, and pat cubes dry with paper towelling.
Place in large, heavy saucepan along with oven-roasted vegetables, stock, tomatoes, and seasonings. Cover. Simmer over medium-low heat with lid ajar for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are done as you like.
Serve immediately, or bring to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight for flavours to blend. Excellent served hot or cold with fresh arugula and shavings of Parmesan.