Despite making quite a few excellent dishes with eggplant, it is not an ingredient I turn to instinctively. It is probably because I almost killed Rob with his asthma when I smoked them in our house. I still think that is the best way to make smoky soft eggplant and with our new BBQ, Rob has lifted the smoky eggplant ban.
I ended up buying eggplants last weekend at the Farmer’s Market (and some peppers and some tomatoes) for a quick-and-easy roasted ratatouille. Instead of the BBQ, though, I went with our oven. There are some gorgeous ratatouilles out there but I went for the random rustic effect. I liquored my vegetables with some white wine (as a nod to my French Farmhouse Grilled Zucchini) and tossed in handfuls of fresh herbs, namely thyme, oregano and marjoram.
The roasted vegetables were simple and excellent. No bitter eggplant and a host of summer flavours. However, the best part was the basil pistou. A French version of pesto, it is made without cheese or pine nuts, it is a garlicky basil dressing at its finest. Despite all the basil used, it pulses down to next to nothing, so consider making extra for freezing. It disappeared quickly here.
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used 4 small eggplants)
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 sweet bell pepper, seeded and chopped (I used yellow)
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
3 cloves garlic cloves, pressed or minced
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used oregano, thyme and marjoram)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 recipe Basil Pistou (recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Chop eggplant and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This will reduce the bitterness in the eggplant. Water will collect at the bottom of your bowl. Squeeze each individual piece of eggplant to remove any excess moisture. Rinse away any excess salt water.
3. To the large bowl, add the onion, zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes and garlic. Stir in the fresh herbs, drizzle with white wine and oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir to evenly combine. Place vegetables on a silpat-lined baking sheet and bake at 45 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool slightly prior to serving still warm.
4. Meanwhile, make your basil pistou (see below). Serve pistou on the side, or mix into the roasted vegetables.
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. In a food processor, place the basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, and salt. Pulse until thoroughly blended, scraping down the sides as needed. Refrigerate until needed or freeze for long-term storage.
Makes ~2/3 cup