Pistou, Pisto Castellano, Pisto con Gambas ... by any other name is ratatouille. Ratatouille with stuff added gets a 'Pisto con ....' handle. In any language , you can't get more seasonal! Pisto and ratatouille are really the same dish ... one French and the other Spanish ... I daresay the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers and onions know nothing of political borders or languages. They grow and ripen under the same hot summer sun and when they offer themselves up ... it all comes together to make the ultimate seasonal vegetable dish. Different regions of cooks add few different touches and herbs; the dish morphs to meet the needs of the different hungry bellies!
As the layers of tomatoes ripen on the back porch, I take my pick and head to the herb garden for fresh parsley. Within an hour, there is a soft satisfying dish of traditional Pisto Castellano - plain and simple ratatouille sitting on the dinner table for our Meatless Monday fare.
Sprinkled with a bit of cheese and served with some black olive and rosemary bread and a wedge of goat cheese pressed in Herbs de Provence, it makes for a wonderful seasonal supper. If ever there was a directive to crack a bottle of red wine, this is the time for that directive. Open a full-bodied red, plate some olive oil and herbs, black olives, have on hand a big loaf of crusty artisan bread, and enjoy some Pisto/Ratatouille!
3 large tomatoes
1 large white onion, thin crescent slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large green pepper, seeded, veined, and sliced into thin slivers
2 medium zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 large eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Fresh parsley, coarselt chopped
Making the Dish:
1. Wash and dry all the vegetables.
2. Slice the eggplant into 3/4 inch slices and then cubes. Place the cubes in a deep colander and sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt. Toss the cubes to distribute the salt and place the colander in a sink to drain off some of the bitterness. Leave for about thirty minutes.
3. Boil some water in a deep saucepan and when it is boiling, drop the tomatoes into the water and leave for about two to three minutes or until the skins split.
4. Remove the tomatoes to a dish and slip them from their skins, let cool a bit and then cut them into quarters and slide the seeds from the quarters, reserving the juices. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and set them aside on a plate. Sieve the juices to remove the seeds and reserve.
5. Drizzle about 2 tbsp. olive oil and plop a knob of butter the size of a walnut into a deep frypan. bring the heat up under the pan and add the onions, letting them sizzle until they are limp and golden.
6. Add the green peppers and garlic and continue to fry gently.
7. Tumble the eggplant onto some paper towels and roll it around a bit to soak up any bitter juices and some of that salt. Toss the eggplant and the zucchini into the frypan and continue to fry the mess together.
8. When the zucchinni begins to soften, lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Add the tomatoes and reserved juices and let the Pisto collapse to a semi-soft stew.
9. Just before serving, toss in the coarsely chopped parsley. Turn into a shallow platter, drizzle with a bit more olive oil, sprinkle on cheese, if you wish, and serve with a loaf of sliced crusty bread, a plate of dark olives, a light soft cheese, and plenty of red wine.