A favorite summer dish made with eggplant

Eggplant, now in season, brings to mind several favorite summer appetizers using mid-summer vegetables in a similiar manner but with different seasonings.

Baba Ghanoush, a Middle Eastern appetizer, has the intriguing flavor of sesame paste or tahini added to lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and parsley for a different eggplant recipe that is spread on pita bread.

The Sicilian Caponata, also an appetizer, is a combination of eggplant and tomatoes, seasoned with capers, green olives and pine nuts for another delicious eggplant dish.

Then there is the French Ratatouille, one of the many Provencal dishes from the area between France and Italy where the two cultures mingle so successfully.

Here is a recipe for ratatouille, which can be served hot or cold, as an appetizer or a vegetable.

It is easy to make, but it is important for each vegetable to retain its own identity in the cooking, because if one dominates, the unusual quality of the dish can be lost.

Ratatouille 2 onions, chopped 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced 1/2 cup olive oil 2 medium eggplants, sliced in strips 4 to 6 zucchini, chopped 4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped 2 green peppers, chopped 2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon thyme Freshly ground pepper to taste 2 leaves fresh basil, chopped, optional

In 1/4 cup oil, saute onions and garlic until soft. Add remaining oil, eggplant and zucchini and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer over low heat about 20 minutes, then uncover and cook until the juices are reduced. Serve either hot or cold. Serves 6.

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