I found these plum tomatoes (above), as well as most of the vegetables I used for this recipe, at the Tower Grove Farmers Market here in St. Louis. It's much smaller than the main farmers market in Soulard but nearly everything is locally sourced, which makes for a big plus in my book.
I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture, but these plum tomatoes are small- much smaller than any of the ones you'll find at the grocery store. And that's how a lot of the produce there was- small, irregularly shaped, real- it makes you wonder about the stuff we're so accustomed to buying in the grocery store.
But back to a less political and more gastronomical issue- Ratatouille. Removing the skin from the eggplant, I think, made an enormous difference in the dish because it allowed the small cubes of eggplant to break down as they sauteed and add both flavor and body to the stew. I served the finished product along with a dollop of goat cheese (not very traditional, but quite good), a sprinkling of fresh basil and a few hunks of good french bread and it quickly became one of the few hot dishes I've enjoyed eating in the depths of summer.
*Traditionally Ratatouille, which originated in Nice, France, was a peasant dish because of its cheap ingredients and ease of preparation
While I enjoyed this dish as a main course with goat cheese and baguette, you could easily have it as a side, serve it over pasta, use it as filling for an omelette, or as a topping for brusectta.
Adapted from a variety of sources, mostly Tartelette
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, 2 minced, 2 whole
1/2 large eggplant, skin removed and diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
about 2 cups tomatoes, roughly chopped [I used small plum tomatoes]
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/3 cup tomato juice or V8
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare all the vegetables. In a large pot over medium heat saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Then add the eggplant and more olive oil as needed and saute until golden in color. Then add the zucchini, then peppers, then tomatoes, salt and pepper and continue sautéing.
Next, add the broth and tomato juice, stir and cover to let stew for about 20 minutes. Add about a tablespoon chopped fresh basil, stir and replace the cover to let simmer on low for about 30 minutes. Uncover, stir and let simmer for a final 20- 30 minutes until most of the liquid has reduced.
Enjoy topped with goat cheese, fresh basil, and baguette.