Chow Town

Late summer heat, vegetables mean it’s time for ratatouille

Everyone is aware summer has hit — it is hot, sticky and the sweat seems to never dry.

Even though we may think it is a bit miserable, the late summer vegetables are basking on the stage of the summer sun, with a little “rehearsal” and care from our beloved farmers.

At the market, your eyes will gaze upon gleaming red and heirloom tomatoes, eggplant with the hues of amethyst and violet with several rainbow shades of peppers. The spectrum of heat, from as scorching as the sun to mild and sweet.

Peaking out from backstage, zucchini and squash will be at their prime, right before they go out of season, with intense, green and canary yellow.

Even though these royal jeweled toned vegetables are at their peak right now, one can only eat so many raw tomatoes and peppers.

No one wants to eat raw eggplant.

While your fill your shopping bag at the farmers’ market with the abundant amount of vegetables, think about this word, ratatouille.

The French dubbed it “stewed vegetables” and ratatouille is now a household name thanks to a little mouse having a big part in the movie.

The dish we are accustomed to seeing today is typically made with onion, garlic and all the late summer veggies listed above, but please don’t limit yourself, make your own ratatouille to suit your pallet.

Late Summer Ratatouille
Makes 6 to 8 servings 2 tablespoons of olive oil 1 cup of onions, medium diced 2 cloves garlic, mashed and chopped 2 cups of eggplant (see note below)
6 cups of fresh tomato diced —divided into 2 cup portions 1 cup of chicken stock or broth 1/2 cup of peppers, medium diced, you may add more if you enjoy a bit of spice 1 cup of zucchini 1 cup of yellow squash 1cup of red wine 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves torn 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano chopped Salt and pepper to taste, plus additional salt for eggplant Note:

To prepare the eggplant, peel the vegetable — you will need about 1 for this recipe — and slice in 1/2-inch slices lengthwise.

Lay the slices out on a baking pan lined with paper towels. Sprinkle salt, about 2 tablespoons, over the eggplant and allow to stand for 20 minutes.

Press the eggplant to remove any excess moisture. Rinse the salt off, then press the eggplant again. Cut into 1 inch cubes.

To prepare the ratatouille:

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom sauce pot, on medium heat.

Sweat the onion for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the eggplant and sweat it for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring it.

Add the first 2 cups of the fresh tomatoes and chicken stock or broth and stir constantly for about 3 minutes, scraping any golden bits of flavor off the bottom of the pan.

Add the peppers and second 2 cups of tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini, yellow squash and red wine, then stir. Cover with foil and turn down the heat to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Fold in the last remaining tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, fresh basil and oregano.

Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.