Like many students, I spent my junior year of college abroad, enrolling at the Université d’Avignon. And like many of those students, I relied on the generosity and patience of a host family, Gaston and Cérise Thibaud, whose two bedroom flat in the little village of Roussillon would be my home for nine months.
At that stage in my life I made it a point never to travel without maseca - the flour one uses to make corn tortillas, or cilantro, and both ingredients perplexed Madame Thibaud to no end. Prior to my arrival in Provence that fall, the French had encountered neither maseca nor cilantro, so I guess you could say I was a culinary ambassador of astonishing historical significance. But who am I to brag?
Anyway, both Madame Thibaud and her husband were surprisingly adept at concocting a serviceable ratatouille, and while I did enjoy it for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, I felt, on occasion, that I could use at least a small change of routine. So I pleaded with my host family to experiment with my own ingredients and somehow incorporate these latin flavors into their repertoire.
I should mention that while this recipe began in Madame Thibaud’s kitchen, I have altered it somewhat in order to take credit for it. Also, the vegetables came from our garden, but if our garden is unavailable to you, perhaps you will find them at a market of some sort.
4 cups diced zucchini
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt as needed
2 cups diced eggplant
flour as needed
1 cup egg substitute
1 Tbsp Salsa Valentina
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
maseca as needed
canola oil as needed
salt to taste
1 can (14.5oz) petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded, de-ribbed and minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup thin sliced red onion
1/3 cup minced cilantro
2 tsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1) For the zucchini, sauté in single layer batches in the olive oil over high heat, adding garlic to each batch as the squash begins to brown. When cooked, sprinkle with salt and remove to large mixing bowl.
2) For the eggplant, toss with flour discard excess. Whisk together egg substitute, salsa, paprika and cumin and add eggplant to this mixture. Allow to marinate 15 minutes, then remove eggplant and toss thoroughly with maseca. Remove excess and shallow fry in canola oil until crispy and golden. Remove to paper towels and season with salt. Add to squash.
3) For tomatoes, sauté the garlic and jalapeño in the olive oil over medium heat. When garlic begins to brown, add tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Add salt and stew for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to squash and eggplant mixture.
4) For assembly, add onion, cilantro, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well to combine and allow to rest at least 1 hour before serving.