Eggplant and squash combine in ratatouille

Eggplant, like the tomato, is a fruit that is commonly thought of as a vegetable. It is widely favored in the cooking of the Near East, France, Italy, Greece, India, the Far East, Indonesia and the American tropics.

When buying eggplant, choose two or more of the smallest, firmest and most unwrinkled ones you can find, rather than a single large one. Soft or shriveled fruit is usually bitter in flavor.

It is unnecessary to peel young, tender eggplant. Just wash well and cut off the stem and top before cooking. Unless the skin seems very tough, it can remain. Eggplant can be sliced, cubed, or diced; baked, steamed, or fried and split, scooped out, and stuffed; served alone or in combination with other vegetables; eaten hot or cold.

Eggplant parmigiana, a favorite in Italian restaurants, can easily be made at home, as well as baked stuffed eggplant and sauteed eggplant.

Ratatouille, a classic version of eggplant from southern France, is an economical summer side dish prepared with summer squash, tomatoes, onions and peppers. Ratatouille 1/3 cup salad oil 2 small onions, thinly sliced 2 small green peppers, thinly sliced 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 medium eggplant, cut in small chunks 2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced Salt and oregano to taste

Heat oil in large skillet or heavy saucepan. Saute onions and green peppers with garlic over low heat until vegetables are limp. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add eggplant and zucchini (both unpeeled) to pan; saute and keep turning until slightly softened. Add tomatoes, salt, oregano, onions and green peppers; cover and simmer altogether for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Serve hot or chilled.Ratatouille also freezes well.

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