By Chris De La Rosa
Last Fall, I did one of my favorite ways to put vegetables from my garden (and fridge) to use, in what I like to refer to as, being a Caribbean take on Ratatouille; and I documented it to share with you.
Very much like the outstanding Ital food I remember eating, as kid at the Ital restaurant in San Fernando, Trinidad (Pleasantville/Mon Repos area).
While I’m very much a carnivore, this vegan dish is absolutely delicious and something I look forward to making and eating.
4-6 cups eggplant (cubed)
2 stalks celery (chopped)
2 sweet bell peppers (1/2 of each, diced)
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper (green one)
4 medium tomato (diced)
5 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs basil
1 medium red onion (diced)
2 spring onion (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 tablespoon salt (divided)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoon olive oil
5-8 okra (sliced)
2-3 cups Swiss chard (chopped)
2 cups Jamaican callaloo (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (smashed)
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 medium Christophene (cho cho)
2 tablespoon parsley (chopped)
Important: if doing this recipe gluten-free, please go through the entire list of ingredients to make sure they meet with your specific gluten free dietary needs.
Wash and prep all the vegetables. I used the stems of the Swiss Chard, but not of the Jamaican Callaloo (choria bhagi) as I find that they can be a bit too tough. The eggplant were cut into 1/2-inch cubes, placed in a drainer and topped with 1/2 a tablespoon of salt, then allowed to sit on the counter for about 30 minutes. This will help remove some of the moisture from the eggplant and, in doing so, some of the bitterness. You’ll notice that I did keep the skin on them. Please watch the video below to see how I prepared all the vegetables.
Rinse the eggplant with cool water and pat dry with paper towels to remove the salt. In a deep, oven-proof pan, heat the oil on a medium flame and fry-off the eggplant. You may need to do this in 3 batches, so as to not crowd the pan. It will take about 5-7 minutes to get golden edges, each time. Set aside the eggplant, after you’ve fried them. As the eggplant cooks, feel free to prep the other ingredients.
With the Christophene you’ll need to peel and remove the core, then dice. There should still be some oil in the bottom of the pot (if not add a teaspoon or so) and go in with the tougher vegetables… heat on low. Start with the Christophene, followed, two minutes later, by the bell peppers, then another two minutes later, you can add the Swiss Chard stems (cut thin), the spring onion (bulb cut in 1/4) and the red onion. Mix well.
Now add the remaining salt and the celery and cook for about 5 minutes. After which you’ll add the garlic, green tops of the spring onions, tomato paste and black pepper. Mix well and add the rest of ingredients — the Jamaican Callaloo, green part of the Swiss Chard, Okra, chunks of tomato and thyme.
It’s finally time to add back the pre-cooked eggplant and mix well. Here’s where you can add the Scotch Bonnet pepper, if you want the dish to have a bit of a kick. Top with the parsley and coconut milk and give it a good stir to combine everything.
Place the pan/pot into a preheated 400 F oven, on the middle rack, for 20-25 minutes. After it comes out, taste for salt (adjust accordingly) and top with the basil. You’re done! A delicious one-pot vegan dish, which is guaranteed to impress your family and friends. In my case, a lot of the ingredients came directly from my garden.
This recipe is courtesy of Gourmand Award winning cookbook author and founder of CaribbeanPot.com, Chris De La Rosa. With over 450 printable recipes with step by step cooking instructions and demo videos, PLUS over 1 million social/fan connections globally every month, CaribbeanPot.com is the world’s #1 resource of Caribbean Culinary Culture. Connect with Chis on Instagram: www.instagram.com/caribbeanpot/.