September 19, 2020

A la Carte: It’s Almost Labor Day, But There’s Still Time for ‘Summer Vegetable Stew’

Lee White

Last weekend, between cooking (more basil pesto and Coca Cola chocolate cake), reading (finally finished Scott Turow’s The Last Trial) or watching television (not much left now except MSNBC and the third season of The Good Fight.)

I also spent some time on Facebook. My south-of-the-Baldwin-Bridge editor, Pem McNerney, who is no slouch when it comes to cooking, made something with tomatoes and eggplant. 

I love eggplant. Needless to say, I did not grow up with fresh vegetables. I doubt that my mom even knew what an eggplant was. I think the first time I tasted it may have been in the early 80s, and it was, of course, eggplant parmigiana.

When we moved to Old Lyme, my next door neighbor told me she had the original recipe from Fatone’s restaurant, where she once worked. I mentioned that Sam Gejdenson used to make it, and she said he learned it from the Fatones. She made it and it is still the best eggplant parm ever. She showed me how to make it, too. 

Today I love eggplant in every way imaginable.

I have made ratatouille, even before that adorable animated movie. I once cooked it whole, unpeeled on a charcoal grill, when its insides have the texture of a Three Musketeer candy bar and the skin has the snap of a warm-from-the-garden tomato.

I forgot to ask Pem for her recipe but I found one in an old cookbook by Michele Scicolone. For me, the star of the show is not just the eggplant, but because the recipe is so simple. It will be my favorite eggplant go-to until its summer bounty is a memory.

Summer Vegetable Stew

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash.

From Italian Holiday Cooking by Michele Scicolone (William Morrow, New York, 2002

The author says you can add any vegetable to the mix, including zucchini, summer squash, celery and green beans. Sometimes she leaves out the cheese and adds basil or parsley. Best of all, she mentions it makes a wonderful sandwich stuffed into a fresh grinder roll.

Yield: serves 6

1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bit-sized pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼  cup freshly grated pecorino Romano

In a large pot, combine all the ingredients except the cheese Add ¼ cup water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender. 

Just before serving, stir in the cheese. Serve hot or at room temperature.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes ‘Nibbles’ and a cooking column called ‘A La Carte’ for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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