By Kellene Bishop
I try not to do much on Sundays. I try to make it stand out as very different from the other days of the week; no work related activities, no activities that require others to work, etc. But that doesn’t mean that I am willing sit down and relax with my husband at a dinner time over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No sirreee… It’s still gotta be tasty but without a lot of fuss and clean up. So that’s when my pressure cooker usually gets pulled out and conjures up something fabulous. One of my favorites is my Eggplant Ratatouille. I stumbled on the inspiration in Lorna Sass’s cookbook “The Pressured Cook”. In fact, for those of you who want to expand your pressure cooking repertoire, you’ll be safe if you pick up any of Lorna’s books.
I confess that I first wanted to try this article because I had never tried a ratatouille before and I loved the movie, so why not? However, let me tell you now that this dish doesn’t look like anything the rat created.
I remember the first time I used this recipe to teach one of my shelf-stable foods classes. I saw the less-than-enthusiastic looks on a couple of the faces once I brought up the eggplant. But I was quite tickled to see those faces express surprise and delight when they tried it. Yup. It’s a game changer kind of recipe.
I look at my pantry inventory as whatever I’ve got on hand AND whatever I’m comfortable growing in a garden. Mind you, I’m far from being a master gardener—so far. I didn’t even try my hand at gardening until a couple of summers ago, but if it grew easily then I know I can look forward to having it and I’ll include this assumption as a part of my one year menu. However, you can also find freeze-dried eggplant as well as the other necessary vegetables in this dish such a leeks and diced tomatoes. Another nice little detail that I’ve learned recently is that eggplant is a protein source. While this is a meatless dish, it definitely isn’t lacking in protein. One cup of eggplant will give you .82 grams of protein. Also, if you’re looking for a gluten free recipe, you can substitute quinoa in this recipe quite successfully. Although DeLallo makes a nice gluten free orzo my absolute favorite gluten-free deviation is with risotto. Pressure cookers and risotto get along VERY nicely, however, if you do use risotto, you’ll need to increase your high pressure cooking time from 4 minutes to 7 minutes–bummer, huh? In fact, my all-time favorite recipe to make in the pressure cooker is my Four-Cheese Italian Risotto. (you can see the video instructions for the risotto here:
Mang! Mang! And enjoy!
2 T Olive oil (I use a garlic olive oil for added taste)
1 T. minced garlic
2 C. thinly sliced leeks (you can substituted coarsely chopped onion but it’s just not the same)
2 C vegetable broth or water
1/2 C orzo, tubetti or other small pasta
2 t. dried oregano
1 t. whole fennel seeds
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 t. salt
pinch of sugar
1 pound eggplant, peeled, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 large red bell peppers, seeded and diced (I like to use one red and one orange)
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes (you can substituted canned diced tomatoes and still have this dish turn out nicely)
1 C. tightly packed fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1 t. grated orange zest
2 t. balsamic vinegar
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the cooker over medium-high heat. Sautee the garlic and leeks/onions until starting to sweat a bit. (about 1 minute) Stir in the broth then add the orzo, oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt and sugar. Stir well so that no leeks are sticking to the bottom of the cooker.
Add the eggplant and the peppers, stir to incorporate. Then gently place the tomatoes on the top of the mixture. Do NOT stir and be sure to keep them away from the sides of the cooker.
Lock the lid in place. Over high heat bring the cooker to high. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure. Set your timer for 4 minutes as soon as you achieve high pressure.
Remove the cooker from the heat source and do a quick release of the pressure. Remove the lid, be sure to tilt it AWAY from you as you’re removing the lid.
Stir well, pressing firmly on the eggplant against the sides of the cooker as you do so in order to create a creamy ratatouille texture. Add the remaining oilv oil, basil, and orange zest and balsamic vinegar. Serve immediately.