Lara’s Saute (Сотэ овощное) or Eggplant Stew

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Summer 2020 is a different kind of summer.

Due to Covid 19 shut down, for the first time in my adult life I have been working from home since March. Extracurricular activities for my kids have been cancelled, and all of a sudden I had so much time on my hands now that I didn’t have to spend hours on commute to and from work, and driving my kids around to and from swimming and tennis training, meets and competitions.
I finally  had time for me. I exercised, worked, cleaned, baked bread, discovered paint by number, cooked, lost 30 lbs, and planted and tended a garden.

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Gardening is such a meditative activity, planting tender seedlings, watching them get stronger, seeing fruit ripen, and being awed by the power of nature and realization that you are part of it.
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And it’s harvest time. You pick the vegetables, juicy, aromatic, bursting with flavor. Ahh – its a gift, and a gift that must be well used.
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Saute, is a very simple, yet flavorful food, that I grew up eating during the summer. In Odessa, the name was simply saute, although what it actually is a type of eggplant stew that every nation has its own variation of.
The French have “Rattatuille”, the Georgians “Ajapsandali”, Odessa residents and expats have “Saute”. Of course each cook has their variation of it. I am no exception.
This recipe is my own, developed this year from ingredients picked in my garden, and what I had in my pantry and refrigerator, and influenced by my lifestyle, that excludes oils, fats, salt, sugar and alcohol from consumption.
And believe my, this recipe doesn’t need any extras, it is filling, flavorful and aromatic, and oh so delicious.

INGREDIENTS
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  1.   Eggplant diced about 4 cups.
  2.  3 -4 medium tomatoes, skin removed, diced
  3.  1 green bell pepper
  4.  1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper
  5.  1 cup onions diced
  6.  1 apple skin removed and diced
  7.  2-3 medium carrots diced
  8.  3 celery sticks diced
  9. 2 teaspoons Khmeli Suneli Spice Mix.
  10.  1 cup fresh basil
  11.  1/2 cup fresh dill
  12.  1/2 cup fresh parsley
  13.  1/4 cup fresh cilantro (optional)
  14.  1/2 cup  green beans ( optional)
  15. 2-4 cloves of garlic pressed

*Khmeli Suneli spice mix :

Equal amounts of dried herbs and spices such as marjoram, blue fenugreek, coriander, basil,  savory. with the addition of saffron and red pepper flakes (to a lesser amount than the rest of the spices) . You can make your own mix or buy oline amazon, ebay, or at any russian food store.

I use the following two brands

Khmeli Suneli from “Local Spicery”

Khmeli Suneli – On Amazon – I usually  buy this in a Russian food store.

Preparation

  • I used “Ichiban” or japanese  eggplants, they are very tender and lack bitterness. If using any other eggplant you might need to pre- soak it  with salt for half an hour, then rinse and dry the eggplant to remove bitterness. You might also want to peel eggplants.
  •  Heat a dutch oven on high heat until very hot. Add onions and turn quickly. Cover the dutch oven with a lid, reduce heat to medium low and cook turning occasionally until onions start to caramelize. About 5-10 minutes.
  • Add carrots and celery to the onions, cover them and let cook for about  5 minutes.
  • Add apple and eggplant to the dutch oven, gently mix vegetables together, cover and let cook on medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes more, or until eggplant starts to soften.
  • Add bell peppers and green beans if you are using them to the  dutch oven, gently mix vegetables again, cover the pot with the lid and yes – cook some more.
  • Once the eggplants are soft, add tomatoes, khmeli suneli  cover with lid and cook on low heat for 30 more minutes.  If too much liquid forms – remove the lid.
  • Chop all the herbs and press garlic. Once the vegetables are soft turn the heat off add fresh herbs and garlic and mix gently, cover let stand  for 10 minutes before serving.
  • Enjoy

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