I made this 22 years ago on my first date with my (then future) husband. It was a very simple dish that I developed for serving with lamb chops (my absolute go-to for a special occasion, or had the night off from working at the restaurant, or wanting meat); this prep, was by far, my favorite at the time. What I didn’t know, that night, was Tom did not care for lamb, detested eggplant, and was no fan of beans, in addition to having an aversion to anything in the squash family. Did I mention, he married me anyway? Plus, he came back for dinner the next night, and the night after that…?
Must have been true love, because I hadn’t made it since that first date (until the 11th anniversary of said date) but now (and even then at year 11), his tastes have developed and become more accepting, so I decided to re-create it – never having written it down. In this present day and time however, I would most likely cook my own beans, and I have been known to use my basic, homemade tomato sauce, but back then, I only used canned. Not that there is anything to apologize for about that.
Three Bean Ratatouille
This can be made in advance or eaten right away. The leftovers are wonderful for lunch the next day and perfect for making soup. I often use my leftovers to make ratatouille and hummus soup with lamb sausage.
1/2 cup cooked, drained chick peas*
1/2 cup cooked, drained kidney beans*
1/2 cup cooked, drained white beans*
3-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 Japanese eggplants** cut into 1/2” dice (3-4 cups)
2-3 zucchini** cut into 1/2” dice (3-4 cups)
2 TB chopped fresh rosemary
1 can (16 oz) Mur Glen fire-roasted tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar to taste
* If using canned beans (as I did then and do often) you will have leftover beans that can be used in salads or put to good use in soup).
** You should have equal zucchini to eggplant, but exact proportions are not critical to the end result of this dish, so relax. I slice them in half and then into quarters (depending on the circumference).
In a skillet with a tight-fitting lid, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom. It is ready when it moves freely about the pan.
Add the eggplant first, sautéing a few minutes before adding the garlic along with a little seasoning of salt and pepper.
Next add the zucchini along with the rosemary and another little sprinkle of salt and pepper.
A few minutes later, add the tomatoes, stir.
Now add in the beans and allow to come to a bit of a simmer.
Cover with a lid and let cook for 20-30 minutes more. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed (it will likely be needed), more pepper for sure and more rosemary if it is not an obvious flavor.
Now check the consistency; the eggplant wants to be soft and the zucchini slightly crisp yet tender. The sauce should thicken slightly. Check to see that the seasonings are balanced; not too salty, not too bland; adjust as you see helpful.
Add 1 – 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar to help brighten the flavor. If you are one to like garlic (as we do), it is nice to add a little extra raw, chopped garlic at this point to help elevate the loveliness of flavor. Continue to cook, covered, for another 10-20 minutes. It is done when you feel it is done (how cool is that?). Go by taste and texture with a little instinct mixed in. Do know this however, it will always be more flavorful the next day. Heinz nailed their campaign when they introduce the song which highlighted the word…a n t i c i p a t i o n…
Grilled Lamb Chops
Ask your butcher for a rack of lamb with 5-6 ribs (for two) or 10-12 ribs if making for four. Have him/her cut the chops apart and trim away the excess fat toward the stem of the bone. I like to use the skinnier boned chops for this.
Sprinkle the chops with “seasoning”. I make my own seasoning by roasting peppercorns, sea salt and coriander seeds, then grinding them down in my Magic Bullet. You could also just season with good sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Don’t overwhelm the chops, just a light seasoning.
In a mortar with a pestle, smash 3 cloves garlic, add in a handful of fresh rosemary (minus the stem, approximately 1 TB, chopped), a little sea salt, pound, pound, pound. Now add approximately 1 tsp Dijon mustard. Massage this mixture well, and evenly over each chop.
Cover and refrigerate until an hour before you are ready to grill them. They will want to sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking so that the meat can cook to the perfect temperature inside without burning the outside.
On a hot, oiled grill, cook the chops approximately 3-minutes per side. You can tell they are done by touching the center. It will harden and have less give the more done they are. Cook them to your liking; I like mine rare and Tom prefers his medium-well (silly, silly boy). Tent them with foil while you plate the ratatouille.
(goat cheese and truffle oil are optional garnishes)
Place a good-sized spoonful of ratatouille in the center of each plate (or pasta bowl). Put 2-3 chops, crisscrossed, on top. Crumble over a little goat cheese (chèvre) and serve with a nice hunk of good bread.
I like to drizzle my plate with truffle oil because I love truffle oil; Tom does not.
I noted that we served that particular meal with 2000 Dynamite Cabernet.
I also noted that on 6/9/2004 (AKA our wedding anniversary), I made this dish and had two leftover lamb chops, so I served it as an appetizer the next night (1 chop over a small dollop of ratatouille). This made me realize that it would be a good thing to serve for a multi-course dinner party. The ratatouille could be made a day in advance and heats easily. The lamb chop would only require one chop per guest; so it would be budget friendly + easy to cook – brilliant!