The first complex vegetable dish that I learned to make was ratatouille, the quintessential slow-cooked summer vegetable ragout made with eggplant, summer squash, onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes from the South of France. I knew I loved cooking when I made it. It takes a little time and attention, but the transformation of these vegetables into a savory stew that tastes even better the day after you make it is so worth the effort. You can turn ratatouille into dinner by making it the focus of a grain-based big bowl. I use farro in this one but any grain will do.
I also love to use these vegetables for hearty deep-dish pies and quiches, or for simpler focaccia and pizza. One of my favorite homes for eggplant and peppers is this spicy baked Tunisian frittata, seasoned with harissa, cinnamon and cayenne. Serve it warm or cold; leftovers pack up well for lunch. A similar dish, a bit heartier, is this cumin-scented eggplant and red pepper gratin.
The Mediterranean isn’t the only place to look for eggplant recipes, of course. I see so many varieties of eggplant at my Asian markets and the Asian stalls at my farmers market. I use the eggplant in spicy grilled eggplant salads and in colorful stir-fries that might also include tofu and a rainbow of sweet and hot peppers.
The kids might be back in school and in every other way summer is definitely over. But it needn’t be, just yet, in your kitchen.