I spent the better part of last Sunday hanging out at my local farmers market promoting a dinner I’m cooking at the market, featuring local produce. The best part of the day was getting to know the farmers. These people love food and growing things and they are quick to share ideas, recipes, and their wares.
I was set up next to a local, organic farm called Gravity Hill and met their farm manager, Fern, who looks like someone named Fern. She’s pixie-like and tan but has arms and hands that are bigger and tougher than most men’s. She’s both delicate and robust, just like a woodland fern. Also just like the food she grows. On my way out of the market I picked up some Gravity Hill tomatoes and Little Purple Tiger eggplant so cute that I just wanted to kiss them.
Late-season summer vegetables have more flavor than their early-season equivalents. They benefit from the hottest time in the field and, typically, the least amount of rain (rainy season tomatoes are watered-down and less intense). Fern’s veggies were flavorful and a perfect for ratatouille. These tomatoes and eggplant won’t be this good until this time next year, so run, don’t walk, to your favorite farmer and load up.
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
12 small eggplant
1 medium zucchini
Thai basil leaves
Cooked white rice
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium high heat until hot. Stir in the onion, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are broken down and slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Halve the eggplant and slice the zucchini. Toss the eggplant and zucchini with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper, then spread in one layer on a baking sheet. Roast eggplant and zucchini, turning occasionally, until golden in spots, 15 to 20 minutes total. Stir eggplant and zucchini into tomato mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve ratatouille sprinkled with basil and over rice.