Three weeks ago, a tractor-trailer truck with a load of locally grown tomatoes, over-turned on one of our narrow, steep and winding rural roads. Tomatoes were all over the place! Many, many boxes of the tomatoes were rescued but were deemed (by whatever authority) unsaleable, due to the accident. Many were donated to local food banks and soup kitchens. Lucky for me, I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and found myself the happy recipient of two 25 pound boxes of beautiful, large and plump Roma tomatoes. No one wanted to see these tomatoes wasted. (And no one was injured in the accident).
I canned one box of them for the winter. With the other, I have made all kinds of tomato-ey things--tomato sauce, tomato soup, pizza, salsa, grilled cheese with tomato sandwiches, two pans of oven dried tomatoes, and I still have a nice bowl full of them to finish off this weekend.
Another thing I made is Ratatouille, which is a delicious dish to make and eat in very late summer to early fall, when the fresh, local, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, and squashes are still available. Ratatouille can be eaten cold with crackers and cheese when the weather is balmy. Or it can be treated as a hot and comforting stew for blustery autumn evenings, served with french bread and brie.
There are many ways to make Ratatouille, and here is one.
3 large onions, roughly chopped
3- 4 plump cloves garlic, chopped
2 bell peppers, any color, quartered, seeds removed
8 Japanese eggplant, split in half lengthwise
6 summer squash, split in half lengthwise
4 very large ripe tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
In a large soup pot, cook onions, in olive oil, over medium low heat, until tender. Meanwhile, drizzle peppers, eggplant, and squash with olive oil, and salt and pepper them. Grill until tender. Chop the grilled vegetables to desired size and add to the pot with the onions. Add the garlic. Stir together, and simmer for a few minutes. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and the fresh rosemary. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.