My favourite traditional dish all time is zacusca, the Romanian ratatouille that can be kept in a jar for a couple of years. Besides the exquisite taste and multitude of vegetal fibers (oh so good for your health), you can enjoy it at any time of the year with no effort.
Best time of the year to prepare this dish for the year to come is August when you can have the fresh legumes from the garden. What you need from the garden? Here it goes:
- eggplant (60%)
- red bell peppers
- red Kapia peppers
- fresh basil
I have used the proportion because you can either cook it on the spot in a smaller quantity to consume it on the spot, or cook it for the whole year to store it for days when you are too lazy to go in the kitchen. So 60% eggplant and 30% tomatoes, carrots and peppers (use as much as possible equal proportions).
The eggplants and the peppers have to be baked, either in the oven or on the fire. Of course the fire will boost the final taste, so I suggest to use fire. After eggplant and peppers are baked, peel the skin and cut them into small cubes. The raw aspect will help the texture. Put 2 tbsp of olive oil and the onions also cut in cubes in a pot. After the onion becomes soft, add the eggplant, peppers basil, thyme, black pepper and salt. Let it boil for 1 hour.
The tomatoes need to be transformed into a very tasty tomato juice, it’s best if you can get the real deal tomato, somewhere from the country side. You need to add the tomato juice and the grated carrots after the peppers and eggplant enjoyed their get together in the pot for more than 1 hour. Leave them to boil together for another 2 hours.
Taste it and see if you need to add more spices. If you want to consume zacusca on the spot, your journey ends here, but if you want to store it in jars for many months to come, you will need to pasteurize it so you can make sure no other living creature will enjoy this loveliness. You can easily do this by securing the zacusca in jars which will be put in a large pot with water for boiling. After you boil the jars for 1 hour, put them in some blankets and let them cool off for 48 hours. This is a second pasteurization if you like 🙂
You can do a trial for the recipe and decide if it’s worth cooking it in bulk. I still have some jars from last summer and I enjoy them at least once per week.
Let me know how it went.