Thursday, August 13, 2015

I just didn't know what I wanted for lunch today so I was digging around in the freezer to see what was available, and that's when I found it:  one last container of Pretend Ratatoille!  It's just what I didn't even know I wanted, and it's fantastic, although maybe I didn't exactly think so when I created and wrote the recipe for it several months ago.....

Pretend Ratatouille

Eggplant to the left of me.  Eggplant to the right of me.  Everywhere I turned:  eggplant. :::::sigh:::::  Shamefully, I have to confess that I don't really care for eggplant.  But when life hands you eggplant, what choice do you have but to re-create Ratatouille?

I buy "clearance" produce at the local grocery whenever they've got it.  It's the bumped, bruised, oddly-shaped, or nearly ready-to-go-off stuff.  It saves a lot of money (which is, of course, a big issue sometimes).  But you've got to accept whatever is on hand and you've got to think fast.....especially when you end up with several eggplant, and then (horrors!) a well-meaning neighbor gifts you with three more because she knows you're a vegetarian and you must surely eat that stuff.  Thanks.

Since I sold the big fridge and replaced it with a little dorm-size one and a chest freezer (one of the best decisions I've ever made, thank you very much), cool space is at a premium.  Eggplant won't last long unchilled and it takes up too much fridge room, so acting immediately was imperative.  But I was also undoubtedly low on money so I got creative.  Hence, the following recipe which actually turns out to be rather nice and freezes well in single size portions.  (It has the added benefit of not tasting all eggplanty.)

This is a "fly by the seat of your pants" recipe, so amounts are very variable.

*2 or 3 eggplant, peeled and cubed
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*Boiling water
*2 cans of cheapo storebrand (Shur-Fine, not kidding) stewed tomatoes with peppers and onions (no, I do not remember what size can it was but it wasn't the biggest one)
*a tablespoon or two of basil (I have a jar of lovely home-grown hang-dried lemon basil from last summer's garden)

Preheat heavy kettle.  (This is actually an important step because it enhances the flavor of the oil)  Add oil.  Toss in eggplant and stir well.  It will, annoyingly, sop up all the olive oil immediately and start sticking to the pot, so add about a cup or so of boiling water (this has the added effect of making the eggplant less sharp).  Lower heat.  Cover.  Cook for about ten minutes, stirring now and then.  

Preheat oven to 375.  Oil casserole (be aware that you may need more than one if there's a lot of product) or 9 x 15 baking pan .  Keep the volume wider than it is tall, so that the veggies cook evenly. 

Add canned tomatoes to eggplant.  Pour into pan.  Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes.

Let cool.  Store in single portions in the fridge and freezer.

Serve over rice, noodles, bread, whatever you may happen to have.  Makes a nice sandwich, too, if you want to serve it cold.....but I'd drain it a little first or you're gonna have a soupy sandwich.....oh, wait, there's another idea:  save the juicy leftover part and use it to flavor ramen.  There you go!  Nothing wasted.  Life is good.

*****Now, I know that Real Ratatouille has a different cooking process (judging from the recipes I looked at) and it calls for zucchini (which would have been really lovely to add but I couldn't afford it; I could just barely manage the money for the stewed tomatoes--what can I say, it was a tough week).  Sometimes you just have to go with what there is.  And that's what I did.  I'll do it again, too.  This stuff is really tasty.....even though it's :::::sigh::::: eggplant.

.....and now that I read this recipe back, it occurs to me that sighing is a very bad old habit, peculiar to those of us who live in the Deep South.  maybe it's due to all the hot weather we have to endure--nine months of summer!  In any case, I had better learn to stop sighing.

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