This dish was inspired by the beautiful, amethyst eggplants from Abbondanza Farm at the Boulder Farmer’s Market. Abbondanza specializes in heirloom varieties of vegetables and seeds. Their stall is always a joy to visit. Somehow, I wanted to showcase these beauties. I wasn’t able to achieve that goal because the stunning purple faded during cooking. Instead, what I ended up with was a very tasty interpretation of ratatouille. While it may seem like a lot of work, it only takes about 1 hour to pull it together and the oven does the rest of the work. This recipe will feed up to 12 people as a side dish and it is perfect for entertaining because it can be served warm or at room temperature.
Roasted Ratatouille, Reconstructed
2 Medium Zucchinis
3 Summer Squash
1 Large Japanese Eggplant
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 medium onions, julienned about 1/4 inch
10 Small Amethyst Eggplants (if not available, use more Japanese eggplants)
2 packages of Sweet Mini Peppers
(or 2 large Red Bell Peppers 1 Yellow Bell Pepper)
2 lbs. Cherry Tomatoes, a variety of color and shapes
(or 2 cans of diced tomatoes, Fire Roasted Muir Glen Tomatoes would work well)
2/3 cup Fresh Basil
1 Tbsp. Lemon Thyme
Salt and Pepper
Balsamic Vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to add just before serving
3/4 cup grated cheese of your choice: Parmesean, Feta and or Smoked Gouda
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. If you have a convection option on your oven, use it. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and then on the diagonal into 1/2 inch half moons. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and about 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Lay onto the baking sheet and roast in the oven until slightly tender, about 8 minutes. Repeat with the Summer Squash.
Cut the Japanese eggplant in the same shape as the zucchini. Place it into a colander and salt liberally. Allow to drain for 20 minutes. Meanwhile heat a heavy bottom skillet on the stove (perferably cast iron) and add about butter. When hot, add the onions to the skillet. Cook for a long time over moderate to low heat until the onions are nice and golden yellow/brown. This could take up to 45 minutes
Once the eggplant have “sweat” a little, damp dry them and toss in a bowl with salt and pepper and olive oil. Now that some of the water is out of the eggplant, it will roast beautifully. Place eggplant on the baking sheet and place into the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are golden and soft. For the amethyst eggplants: cut them in half lengthwise, lightly oil and season with salt and pepper them. Spread them on to a baking sheet and roast until they are soft, about 6 – 8 minutes.
If you have a gas grill, then grill your peppers until soft and slightly black. If you don’t then place them on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until they are puffed and slightly blackend. If using large bell peppers, slide off blackened skin, seed and cut into strips.
As each of the vegetables are cooked, toss them together into an ovenproof baking dish. Place your cherry tomatoes into the dish as well. Lightly toss everything together. Add about 3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil and 1 1/2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar and then cover with foil and place into the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees F and cook for about 2 hours. Just before serving, chop some fresh basil and lemon thyme, toss with the vegetables. Garnish with the cheese of your choice.
This dish can be made one day in advance; hold on the herbs and cheese until serving time. The flavors of the ratatouille will mingle famously, while you sit back and sip your wine.