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MOM FOOD : Remembering the women who shaped our tastes. The recipes are the least of it. : We Remember Mama : How We Survived The Eggplant

October 18, 1990|CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

During World War II, my mother planted a Victory Garden in the back yard and found, as all California gardeners do, that eggplant and zucchini grow like mad in our climate. In fact, you can't kill them with a stick--for years after the war those two, and the Swiss chard, reseeded themselves all over the place.

A native Southern Californian and unquestioning believer in vegetables, she dutifully served us eggplant when it was in season. Unfortunately, the only way she knew to cook it was frying, and she was not aware that eggplant has to be salted first to remove the bitterness. It pained her affectionate and vegetable-trusting heart to see we didn't like the stuff.

But there were all those eggplants! Something had to be done with them. I can remember my father drop-kicking a spare one over the back fence while we cheered.

Finally she came upon a recipe for a Provencal dish where eggplant was stewed with other vegetables, and magically, you couldn't taste the bitterness. (And hey, it was also a way to use up some of those millions of zucchini at the same time!) We went for it, and she served us ratatouille all summer long from then on.

MARY PERRY'S RATATOUILLE

1 medium eggplant, about 1 1/2 pounds

1 small zucchini, about 1/2 pound

1/4 cup oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 large green or red pepper, sliced

4 medium tomatoes, quartered

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 heaping teaspoon coriander seeds

1 lemon, quartered, optional

Wash eggplant and cut into 1-inch cubes. Wash zucchini, trim off ends and cut in 1/2-inch slices.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until tender. Add eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper and coriander seeds. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Cover and cook 10 minutes longer, or until vegetables are tender. Serve hot or cold (squeeze lemon over if served cold). Makes 4 servings.

Styling by Minnie Bernardino and Donna Deane

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