I know what you're going to do with all of those vegetables your gardening friends have been piling on you for the past several weeks: make ratatouille (or at least something like it). A friend who is a chef showed me this method, which has the benefits of being ridiculously easy and making vegetables that no normal person would like (eggplant, squash, etc.) tasty. Here's what you'll need to get started, in order of appearance:

—1 medium onion, diced

—Several cloves of garlic, minced

—The following vegetables, cut into 3/4-1 inch cubes: eggplant, yellow squash, zucchini

—One bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces

Add the onion to a heavy skillet (I like cast iron) with a sufficient amount of olive oil (remember all of the other stuff to come, so don't get stingy with the oil) over medium, medium-high heat and cook until it's soft and translucent, with a pinch of salt thrown in for good measure. Then add the garlic and cook until you can smell it, which shouldn't take more than half a minute or so.

At this point, start adding the vegetables in descending order of hardness. I usually start with the squash, cook it for a few minutes until it's softened, then add the zucchini, then the eggplant, and then the pepper (which is technically harder than the eggplant, but it's thinner and cooks fast). At each step, add some salt to the new additions.


When all of your vegetables are cooked through and softened, it's time for some tomatoes and herbs. Or, if you want an easier route, pour in a small jar of good pasta sauce (this dish doesn't cost a lot, so you can afford to get something better than Ragu), which consists largely of tomatoes and herbs. If you want to throw in some extra fresh basil, that would be nice, and a bunch of cracked black pepper would also work.

Once the sauce comes up to a simmer, you're done—you have a perfectly tasty side dish or topping for pasta or polenta. Or, if you wanted to gild the lily a bit, you can pour it into a baking dish, top with some cheese (mozzarella and/or parmesan) and broil it for a few minutes until it's nice and browned on top. That's a good thing. You should do that.