While fruits and vegetables run the gamut of flavors, colors, textures and preparations, it can sometimes be challenging to make a main dish from them. Enter, Ratatouille, a produce-rich dish that can be made in a multitude of ways. Using a smoker to infuse fruits and vegetables with flavor before fully cooking them adds a uniqueness that can’t be matched. I’ve often tossed a few vegetables on the smoker racks if the meats I was smoking didn’t take up all the space. Smoked onions and peppers added to a favorite chili or stew will really amp up the flavors, adding something a bit out of the ordinary.
Ratatouille has many variations but the basis is usually eggplant roasted with some type of squash, onions and tomatoes, drizzled in olive oil. Although I have chopped many of the ingredients in this recipe prior to smoking, you can keep it simple and just smoke everything chopped in half or quarters and finish the chopping before tossing into a casserole dish and baking. If using smaller eggplant, the salt soak isn’t necessary.
Mesquite Smoked Ratatouille
INGREDIENTS:1 large eggplant
2 red bell peppers
1 zucchini squash
1 yellow squash
10 cloves garlic
10 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper
Smokehouse Mesquite Wood Chips
To prepare eggplant, chop in large chunks, place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Place colander over a bowl to catch drain. Slice onions 1/2” thick and cover with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of white vinegar. Let both sit 30 minutes.
Quarter bell peppers and remove seeds. Cut squash into thin slices and thread on to wooden skewers. Cut mushrooms in half.
Rinse eggplant under cold water and press liquid out using a clean dish towel or several layers of paper towels. Place eggplant on a greased, perforated pan or a double layer of foil that has holes poked in it. Scatter whole garlic cloves in with eggplant. Place everything in a preheated 150º-200º smoker filled with mesquite chips in the smoke box. Smoke 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove fruits and vegetables from the smoker. Chop bell peppers and onions. In an oven proof casserole dish, toss onions, peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and garlic with about half of the olive oil. If desired, make a circular pattern with squash slices. Quarter cherry tomatoes and sprinkle on top with the remaining olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
Cover Ratatouille, and bake in a preheated 375º oven or smoker, 45 minutes or until fruits and vegetables reach desired tenderness. Toss in fresh basil leaves and serve warm or at room temperature.
For more recipes and information about her books on smoking foods, visit www.tiffanyhaugen.com.