In late summer and early fall there are plenty of tasty vegetables coming out of the garden. Things like eggplant, peppers and tomatoes. One of my favorite recipes makes the most of all of these, it's a classic Italian dish called ratatouille.
It just makes sense that these vegetables taste good together since they come out of the garden at about the same time.
Wait a week or two after the last frost to plant peppers. Give them full sun, well-drained soil and consistent moisture. Mix a 3- to 5-inch layer of compost into each planting hole, as a generous amount of organic matter helps the soil retain moisture, and moist soil is crucial for good pepper production. For basic feeding, also use a timed-release granular fertilizer in the ground at planting time. Stake the plants to support the heavy fruits.
Eggplant require lots of sunshine and warm, well-drained soil. Plants should be set out about 3 weeks after the last spring frost. In spite of their love of heat, once in the garden, eggplants like cool, moist roots. Mulch the ground with straw and keep it moist but not soggy.
Plant zucchini after all danger of frost has passed. This plant likes nutrient rich, well-drained soil. Prepare the ground for squash by mixing in a 3-inch layer of compost along with a timed-release or organic fertilizer at the rate recommended on the label. Set 3 transplants in hills spaced at least 30-inches apart. A light mulch is sufficient. Bees or other small insects must visit flowers to pollinate them or the fruit won't develop. Pick fruits when they are young and tender, about 4- to 8-inches in length. Harvesting encourages more flowers and fruit.
Plant tomatoes when the soil has warmed and night temperatures stay above 50° F. Tomatoes need 6 to 8 hours of full sun. Get your stakes or trellises in place when you plant. Plant tomatoes deep; bury at least two-thirds of the plant's stem. This will give the plant strong roots and better fruiting. If the plants start looking worse for wear toward the end of summer, cut back and fertilize for a new flush of growth.
To begin, sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil. Next add the sliced bell pepper and eggplant, and continue cooking the vegetables over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until they are tender.
Add the zucchini, diced tomatoes and bay leaf along with one teaspoon of salt, a few pinches of pepper and 3 chicken bullion cubes. Cover the vegetables with a lid and simmer for about 20 minutes. Just before serving fold in about 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and half a tablespoon of fresh chopped oregano. Add the fresh herbs last to retain their best flavor.
Serve over pasta, rice or even couscous. There's enough here to serve 4 people.
Time to prepare: 45 minutes.