Ratatouille with Crunchy, Meaty CrumbsTexture and taste make a delectable ratatouille. And such is the “Ratatouille with Crunchy, Meaty Crumbs” from my spotlight cookbook: Dinner, Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark.

Ratatouille with Crunchy, Meaty Crumbs
Dinner, Changing the Game
Serves 4

6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
6 oz. ground lamb
1/2 cup panko
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. fine chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more as needed
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium eggplants (1 lb. total), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 medium zucchini (1 lb. total), trimmed and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for servings
Coarse sea salt, as needed

In a 10- to 12-inch skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and cook, breaking up the meat as much as possible with a fork, until it is uniformly golden brown, about 7 minutes. Stir in the panko and cook until the mixture is toasty and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. For the last minute of cooking, stir in half of the garlic and half of the rosemary. Season with 1/2 tsp. of the salt and with black pepper to taste. Scrape the mixture onto a wide plate.

Return the skillet to the heat. Add 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil, and stir in the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Season with 1/4 tsp. of the salt and black pepper to taste. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.

Return the skillet to the heat again, and add the remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the eggplant and zucchini, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are almost tender, about 10 minutes. Season with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and black pepper to taste.

Return the bell pepper mixture to the skillet and add the remaining garlic, remaining rosemary, and the thyme leaves. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the the tomato sauce and basil. Partially cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until the vegetables are completely tender and falling apart, 15 to 25 minutes.

To serve, sprinkle the meat crumbs over the surface of the ratatouille. Drizzle with additional olive oil, and top with coarse sea salt and chopped basil.

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A single big skillet and a whole heap of vegetables. The lamb and panko and garlic need less than 7 minutes total to toast. Easy.

After that, take care to salt-and-pepper each step as you add the various ingredients to the skillet: onion, bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini. At the end, I added even more: 1 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. The basil was a superstar; the “crunchy, meaty crumbs” were a smart touch.

PRICES:
Ground Lamb (6 oz.) = $4.85
Onion (1) = .52¢
Red Bell Pepper (1) = .52¢
Eggplant (1 lb.) = $2.10
Zucchini (1 lb.) = $2.25

PREP TIME: lots of veggies to chop, more than an hour of cooking
TASTE: basil sings with eggplant and zucchini, crunched with meaty crumbs

Next time, I’ll turn to the chapter devoted to ground meats, in the same Dinner, Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark, and will make the “Ginger Pork Meatballs with Cilantro and Fish Sauce.” I’ll also make the suggested “Smashed Sichuan Cucumber Salad,” (recipe below), if only to indulge in the current trend of inelegantly smashing a pile of cucumbers with a rolling pin.

Smashed Sichuan Cucumber Salad
Dinner, Changing the Game
Serves 4

2 lbs. cucumbers, peeled if desired
2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
1 tsp. grated peeled fresh giner
4 tsp. Chinese black vinegar or rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
Large pinch of light brown sugar
1 small fresh red chile, thinly sliced, seeded if desired

Arrange the cucumbers on a cutting board. Using a rolling pin, meat pounder, or the flat side of a cleaver or heavy chef’s knife, pound the cucumbers until they are broken apart and smashed. Tear them into 1 1/2-inch-long chunks, discarding any seeds that fall out in the process (it’s okay to leave some of the seeds). Put the cucumbers in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, brown sugar, and chile slices. Mix well, add this to the cucumbers, and toss.

You can serve this straightaway, but it gets better if you chill it for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours. Just before serving, taste the salad and adjust the seasonings if needed.