Don’t know what to do with all the summer vegetables at the market right now? Are you staring at all the zucchini, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes that you bought at the farmer’s market and wondering what the heck you are going to do with it all? Well let me tell you a little bit about “Ciambotta”, sometimes spelled Giambotta, and often pronounced “Jambot,” which is southern Italian dialect. I’ve always called it the “Italian Ratatouille.” No matter how you spell it or pronounce it, it is a surefire and delicious way to use up any vegetables that are sitting around in need of a recipe. If you grew up in an Italian household, you absolutely have eaten a version of this dish. Of course I make it the way my grandmother and mother made it, but I have seen it made countless ways, using different ingredients. Traditionally, potatoes are used, as this gives it a hearty “stew like” quality. But in my household growing up, we didn’t know from potatoes. I’m surprised that my mother didn’t put this on top of pasta, as it would really be delicious that way. I’m joking a bit here, but it was rare to see potatoes in my mother’s kitchen. She did sometimes put them into her ciambotta, but never to stretch it into a one dish meal. This was always a side dish, accompanying a meat, chicken or fish. I rarely include potatoes myself just because of my personal preference, and also you have to cook it longer since potatoes take much longer to cook than the other vegetables. I will tell you later how to add potatoes, should you desire. String beans are another great addition to this. According to my mother, ciambotta (she calls it jambot) means a “mixed up mess.” You won’t find that on Rosetta Stone!
RECIPE: Makes 4 to 6 servings, as a generous side dish
1 medium yellow onion
1 medium eggplant
3 medium zucchini, green or yellow
2 yellow peppers
2 tomatoes, any type will do *(see note below
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 potatoes, peeled, if using
*NOTE: You may use fresh Italian plum or any garden vareital tomato. However, if you don’t have tomatoes in the house, you can use a TBSP of tomato paste, when sautéing the onion and pepper, or a handful of canned Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped.
1. Cut all the vegetables into bite size pieces. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, sauté the onion in the oil over medium low heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the peppers and sauté for another minute or two.
3. Add the tomatoes or paste next and stir for 2 minutes, to coat the onion and peppers.
4. Add the rest of the vegetables (include potatoes or string beans here as well, if using). Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes, but you must keep checking. You don’t want the vegetables to be too mushy.
5. If you need to add some water, do. If there is too much liquid, uncover and cook for a few minutes more.
Whether you serve this as a meal or a side dish, you’ll want some nice crusty bread to sop up all the juices.