If you’ve read much Chewing the Fat lately, you may remember David Falkowski, our local “Mushroom Man”, who supplies us with wonderfully fresh and dried mushrooms at our local Farmer’s Markets. A couple of weeks ago, while we were at the Saturday morning market in Sag Harbor, we were visiting David’s table and there we saw some tiny little eggplants about 2 or 3 inches long. David told us they were Fairy Tale eggplants. He said customers were coming back weekly to buy more so he knew he had a hit on his hands. The next thing we knew, there they were in New York magazine’s August 2nd Food section being extolled for their lack of both major seeds and any bitterness associated with their larger cousins. We hustled home with ours and decided to make them the basis for the best ratatouille we’d ever tasted.
It’s a riff on Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Ratatouille. The Fairy Tale eggplants took the place of regular eggplant and we also added yellow summer squash to his zucchini and, rather that stick to Tyler’s call for red cherry tomatoes, added some tiny yellow and orange tomatoes. We stuck fairly close to his seasonings. Among them are minced anchovies. Now, we’ve discussed anchovies before and once again, I urge you to get over any doubts you have about these tiny and highly flavored little fish. The basic fact is that once they are minced and join up with garlic and onions, they are unrecognizable. They have no apparent relation those pesky little hairy things that you may or may not want on top of your Caesar Salad. Instead, they bring tremendous flavor to this gorgeous dish.
Now Tyler’s recipe is for 4 servings. I don’t think that makes a lot of sense. Ratatouille is one of the great joys of summer. Having some in the fridge does make a lot of sense. It’s a perfect summer lunch, a salad in its own dressing. So I doubled his recipe. And boy is it good! One more thing: You can certainly substitute regular eggplant, Japanese eggplant, whatever eggplant appeals to you if you not fortunate enough to have David Falkowski at your Farmer’s Market. Here’s the recipe.
Ratatouille with Fairy Tale Eggplant
1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 pound Fairy Tale or other small eggplants, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds zucchini and yellow squash, cut crosswise into 1-inch sections
6 anchovy fillets, finely minced
3 onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Leaves from one bunch fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Leaves from 8 fresh thyme sprigs
3 pints mixed cherry and yellow tomatoes
1 dried chile
Splash balsamic vinegar
Line a large platter with paper towels. Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the eggplant, season generously with salt and pepper, and let that cook down for 10 to 12 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and wilted. With a slotted spoon, remove the eggplant from the pan and onto the paper-towel lined platter to drain.
Next, cook the zucchini and yellow squash the same way, adding another 1/2 cup oil if necessary. Add it to the platter with the eggplant.
Add another 1/2 cup olive oil to the pan, then the anchovies, onions, garlic and herbs. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions get nice and caramelized.
Add the tomatoes and cook that down for 10 to 12 minutes, until pulpy. Return the eggplant and zucchini to the pan, crack open the chile, and add that too. Season with salt and pepper and let the ratatouille cook slowly for about 20 minutes, until the mixture is soft, mushy and juicy; you want all the flavors to come together.
Stir in the vinegar and let cool to room temperature. Serves 8.