By Mary Beth Shaddix
Perhaps it’s the name. Perhaps it’s the texture. Perhaps it’s the fact that I had one slightly cold, somewhat soft, saucer-sized blob of oily eggplant at dinner one night as a child (when all things brown and soft and not resembling Ore-Ida fries were suspect). All of these are potential causes for my avoidance of eggplant on any menu. So, when I began plotting out my vegetable garden this year, eggplants almost didn’t make the cut. After coercion from my Bonnie coworkers, I agreed to grow Black Beauty, Ichiban, and a white variety to test my taste buds once again. After all, I could always share my harvests with friends and neighbors.
Which is where you come in. I manage our social media and continually get to have humorous, helpful (and helpful to us!) conversations with gardeners on a daily and hourly basis. So I turned to you, friends and garden neighbors, to help me learn to love eggplant. Within hours of pleading for recipe ideas, we were barraged with lots of comments and suggestions and Facebook activity. Thanks for coming to my rescue. I received tips on how to grill, how to sauté without the sogginess, how to bake the perfect eggplant casserole to mimic lasagna…many ideas that I’ll continually try and come back to report on again. Fab McMillan, who suggested cubes of eggplant and other veggies for a “pseudo-ratatouille,” inspired the first recipe I tried with Ichiban. Having homegrown tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, onions and peppers on hand, to the chopping board I went. It seemed simple enough. I also peered over the shoulder of our friend P. Allen Smith, who knows his way around a kitchen. (Which is to say that I searched his cookbook and website for the proper portions in a “real” ratatouille recipe.) And our website has a great recipe inspirations, too. (I love that our “In the Kitchen” section is organized by what you’ve just harvested. It’s helpful that way, when you’re staring at a 20-pound basket of tomatoes…)
Simmering these together on the stove made for an incredibly inviting smell in our kitchen. As all of the veggies cooked down to a sauce, I decided it’d be perfect over pasta with a bit of Pecorino cheese. And the verdict? I like eggplant. In fact, I love it. The recipe got rave reviews from (an Italian) husband, so we have prepared it four times since. The great thing about a ratatouille is the simplicity and how much of your garden you can highlight in one dish. Try it and let me know what you think!
Thanks to you all for the many suggestions. I’ll be trying and featuring more as summer continues. My Black Beauty eggplant is covered in blooms and I’ll be tackling the “saucer-sized slices” of that next! Stay tuned on our Bonnie Blog and our Facebook page. Keep the ideas coming…