Classic French vegetarian recipe using a lovely blend of eggplant, zucchini, capsicum (bell pepper), tomato, and fresh basil! Oh the lovely smells and it pairs well with fish, chicken or turkey or cannelloni beans to keep this vegetarian.
Based on Alice Waters' recipe from her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in California
(Cooked by Patricia of Warmly Nourished and At Home Chef over and over and a requested menu item from my personal chef service)
1 medium or 2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 bunch of basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine + 6 basil leaves, chopped
pinch of dried Chile flakes
2 sweet red capsicum, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium zucchinis, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt to taste
Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove the eggplant when done and set aside.
In the same pot, pour in 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, basil bouquet, dried chile flakes, and a bit more salt.
Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, and then stir in peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, and then stir in summer squash. Cook for a few more minutes, and then stir in tomatoes.
Cook for 10 minutes longer, then stir in eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all its flavors, and adjust the seasoning with salt.
Stir in the chopped basil leaves and more extra virgin olive oil, to taste. Serve warm or cold.
Please don't rush this recipe or be tempted to bake it. The layering of the vegetables in the order the recipe indicates yields the best results. As Basil is a key part of this, please try to use the freshest you can find.