O me of little faith. I didn't expect the garden to yield any eggplants this year, what with the skimpy hot weather and all. But "Diamond" came through. It's an heirloom variety from the Ukraine which matures earlier than other eggplant varieties and is similar in size to Japanese eggplant. It cooks up nicely, with firm flesh, thin skin, and almost imperceptible seeds. Naturally, I had to make ratatouille from this bounty. I started with a James Beard recipe, from his 1965 book Menus for Entertaining. (This is a most entertaining cookbook, indeed, complete with several full-color photographs of the author looking much like Uncle Fester, to very endearing effect, if you ask me.) You start with lotsa onion and lotsa garlic in lotsa olive oil, to which you add the eggplant in cubes and green pepper rings, and then chopped tomatoes and a fistful of fresh basil. Beard's recipe goes on to incorporate a pound of mushrooms, but I went my own way here and added sliced zucchini and chopped Swiss chard (most definitely including the stems) instead. It was good topped with grated Parmesan, and even better reheated the next day.
If the season had been longer and the yield greater, I would have had big plans for the eggplants. I think "Diamond" would have been perfect for Szechwan-style eggplant and green beans in red pepper black bean sauce (Fortex string beans being, if anything, a superior substitute for traditional Asian long beans). And although I originally envisioned my vegetable garden as a "ratatouille garden", that was before I stumbled upon Imam Bayeldi, the eggplant appetizer which I have anointed The Best Thing In a Jar (made in Bulgaria, sold under the brand name ZerGüt, with its linguist-tantalizing diaresis). Simply put, imam bayeldi is what ratatouille wants to be when it grows up. So, resolved for next year: more eggplant, early and often, in the Imam Bayeldi garden.