(Summer) Ratatouille

I've always known more-or-less what ratatouille is--a French vegetable stew-like dish with eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and some other stuff-- but the specifics eluded me and so I thought it was a more complicated dish.  Perhaps because it's French?  That doesn't really make any sense based on what I know about French cuisine, and the fact that during my brief stint as an "au pair" the kids snacked on baguettes with chocolate.  I mean does it get any more simply delicious than that? Last night I learned just how simple ratatouille is to make, and that its beauty definitely lies in its simplicity.  Especially because I was able to source all of my ingredients at a market with tons of local seasonal produce!  Following Carol Han's "Summer Ratatouille" recipe off her blog Milk & Mode, the only ingredient changes I made were using dried thyme instead of fresh (it's all I had), and not adding any of the optional herb garnishes (even though I did have the fresh basil, go figure).  I've left her ingredients and directions in tact below...

NOTE: I did salt my eggplant and let it sit for about 30 min... generally, I think when cooking with eggplant it needs pre-salting to help release some of the excess moisture that could otherwise tamper with a recipe.

Ingredients: 1 large or 2 medium eggplant 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped 1 medium onion, roughly chopped 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley or basil leaves, for garnish (optional)

Directions: Trim the eggplant and cut it into 1-inch cubes. If the eggplant is large, soft or especially seedy, sprinkle the cubes with salt, put in a colander and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Rinse, drain and pat dry.

Put the oil in large skillet and turn heat to medium. When hot, add the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 15 minutes.

Add the zucchini and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and keep cooking until the tomatoes begin to break down, another few minutes. Turn the heat to low, partially cover the skillet and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, garnish with the herb if desired, and serve immediately, at room temperature, or chilled the next day.

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My finished product doesn't look quite as pretty as the picture on Han's blog, but then again, I took mine using my awful Blackberry camera... Cheers! Cleo