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Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille and Some Life Lessons

La Petite Maison Verte: Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille and Some Life Lessons

Monday, June 25, 2012

Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille and Some Life Lessons

I have learned a thing or two about being on my own.  With a husband in the military and family far, far away, this has a tendency to happen.  Before I was married, I lived alone too.  I had an apartment in downtown Baltimore while I was in grad school, and while I was close enough to see my parents regularly, I had to learn to be self-sufficient, a skill I have found to be invaluable many times in the years since.

Here are a few life lessons I have learned so far, the 'you' obviously refers to me, these were all learned from experience...

Life lessons for Ladies Living Alone:

You can make a meal out of watermelon and popcorn.

Not all of the boring envelopes that come in the mail are solicitous, some are bills, and you should probably open them all just to check.

Frozen naan bread makes a very good pizza crust for one.

There are a few upsides to the solitude:  you can spend as many hours on Pinterest, Glitter Guide, reading magazines and at the gym as you please.  You can watch My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding and nobody is going to say a peep about it.

Your car will most likely have some sort of major maintenance issue that you should probably are going to have to deal with asap.

Along those same lines, in all likelihood you will have to weather a tropical storm or hurricane, or some other natural disaster.  And you will make it through it just fine, even though you never thought you could.

You're going to have to put on some sneakers, grab an umbrella and take the dog out even in the rain.  The little guy (or gal) is depending on you.  Also, if you don't you're the one who'll be cleaning up the mess later.  Now there's some motivation.

You should have a ready supply of chocolate chips just in case the urge to bake cookies happens to strike.  And it will.

Replace the TP roll when you use the last piece in order to avoid being stranded on your next bathroom visit.

Be vigilant when you're out walking at night.  This should be common sense but it's worth saying anyway.  Also, mace is good to have handy, you know, for peace of mind.

It's probably you, not him, that makes the big mess in the kitchen.  This fact will be proven when you have the house to yourself.

It's usually a better idea to buy a pint of Ben & Jerry's than it is to buy a quart of something cheaper.  Portion control, people, portion control.  You're the only one around to eat it.

Friends are super important.  Don't forget that.  And get to know your neighbors too, they'll keep an eye on things for ya and you can return the favor.

Target sells wine in single-serving juice boxes.  No, it's not going to win any awards but the Cabernet/Shiraz blend isn't half bad and it'll do the trick when you just need a glass of red to go with your pizza for one.

When watermelon and popcorn aren't enough, you can and should cook for yourself.  Make something amazing.  Make exactly what you are craving.  Preferably try to include all major food groups since you've been living on bowls of cereal, peanut butter and banana toast, and salads for the last 2 days.

Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille is one of those dinners that I found myself craving when I had the house to myself.  I liked it so much that I'm sure I'll make it over and over again when Brian is home, as he enjoys vegetables as much as I do.  Of course, for him it will probably need to accompany some sort of meat but for me, a simple fried or poached egg on top did the trick.

This recipe comes from the book A Homemade Life that I read for my book club.  It's written by Molly  Wizenberg of Orangette, a blog which I have loved for some time now and which is one of those rare finds that combines really lovely photography, delicious recipes and beautifully written stories.  I love Molly's cooking (and eating style), it's a lot like mine in that she enjoys simple, classic foods, prepared at home with the best quality ingredients you can find.  She spent a lot of time in Paris and so the French style is often reflected in the dishes she makes.

I took Molly's advice when she recommended serving this ratatouille with a piece of crusty bread to dunk into the liquid at the bottom of the bowl.  And I have to agree that this would definitely be the way to go.  Also, she's right when she said that it gets better the next day after the flavors have a chance to marry in the refrigerator overnight.  So, even if you're the only one eating this, I recommend you make the full recipe so you can have leftovers for the next couple of days.  It's so delicious, you won't mind having to eat it a couple of days in a row, in fact you'll look forward to it.

I changed the recipe around a little, adding summer squash, as I had some on hand.  A Homemade Life is full of wonderful recipes and memories, worded so perfectly that you really get to know Molly.  It's an easy read and one that will have you heading straight for your kitchen, inspired by her simple and beautiful cuisine.

Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille
serves 4
adapted from A Homemade Life

1 pound eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick rounds (this is approximately 1 medium-large eggplant)
olive oil
1 pound zucchini + summer squash (or any combination of the two) trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2 inch thick half-moons (this is approximately two large squash)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
5 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sprigs fresh thyme - the leaves only, stripped from the stems (stems discarded)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle.

Lay the sliced eggplant on an oiled baking sheet and drizzle on about 2 tablespoons olive oil, rubbing the oil onto the eggplant slices, making sure both sides are coated.  Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the slices after 15 minutes, until they are lightly browned on both sides.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly, then chop into 1-inch pieces.  Set aside while you prepare the rest of the ratatouille.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the zucchini and cook 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until just beginning to soften and turn golden.  Remove from the pan and set aside with the cooked eggplant.

Add a little more oil to the pan, just enough so the bottom is lightly coated, then add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.  Add the red bell pepper and garlic and cook just until tender for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, thyme leaves and bay leaf.  Stir, reduce heat to low and cover the pan with the lid.  Cook 5 minutes, then add the eggplant and zucchini back to the pan, stir and re-cover with the lid.  Cook 15-20 minutes or until everything is tender.  Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, as necessary to taste.  Stir in the basil and remove from heat.

Serve ratatouille hot or warm in a bowl with crusty bread for dipping and with a poached or fried egg on top, if desired.


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At July 16, 2012 at 5:35 AM , Anonymous pennycarreg said...

This looks great, have gone out to the market today and will try tonight and let you know how it turns out!

At July 16, 2012 at 6:02 AM , Anonymous Jules said...

I have no doubt you'll love it, looking at the pictures again I'm reminded how delicious it was! Enjoy!


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