Zucchini is treated like a vegetable by cooks; however, a botanist considers it to be an immature fruit, the “swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower.”
Zucchini, like other squash, is sensitive to alternations in ecological exchange systems. In areas where pollinators have declined from natural levels due to lost habitat or high pesticide use, zucchini plants often abort their fruit. That is, a zucchini begins to grow, but long before reaching a harvestable size, the fruit perishes and decays.
Zucchini are prone to damage when they are let to come to room temperature after chilling in the refrigerator. This shows as shadowy, sunken pits in the fruits surface.
Ratatouille is a french dish. It is a stew of summer fruits and vegetables prepared in olive oil and simmered over hours of low heat. Ratatouille is traditionally served with bread as a lunch.
Yield: Makes 4 to 5 main dish servings
Active time: 50 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
4 large tomatoes
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
10 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 large onions, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 assorted bel peppers (green, red, and/or yellow) cut into one inch pieces
4 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into ¾ inch pieces
½ teaspoon black pepper
Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch together in a 4-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife. Rough cut tomatoes and transfer to a large pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup of oil. Simmer, slightly covered, occasionally stirring.
While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, caramelize onion with add 3 tablespoons of oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt in a large pan. Once done, set aside in a large bowl and repeat with bell peppers. Repeat again with zucchini.
While the zucchini are cooking, , pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to skillet and cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.
Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.