September 30, 2010 - Posted by Erin in Culture, Food and wine, Spain

Given my affinity for manchego cheese, it’s not all that surprising that any dish originating from the fine land of Castilla La Mancha would automatically appeal to me (which reminds me, Mom, be sure to add manchego cheese to your list of things to have in the fridge when I visit the US for the holidays  – we wouldn’t want me to go through withdrawals now would we?).  Castilla La Mancha is the community (think State, like in the US) just south and east of Madrid and home to the legends of Don Quixote, the charming city of Toledo, and of course my beloved cheese.  Enough talk about these things though, I’m here to introduce you to a new dish from this region, one that is surprisingly healthy and very easy to make.  It’s called pisto manchego, and might remind you a bit of ratatouille.

Here’s what you will need:

    1 onion
    3 green peppers
    3 zucchinis
    3 eggplants
    A clove of garlic
    A large can (29 oz. or so) of tomato puree
    A touch of salt
    A teaspoon of sugar
    A little bit of olive oil 
    Some eggs (depending on how Spanish you’re feeling)

Ok, so you know the drill – quantities above are approximate as the suegra (mother-in-law) doesn’t work with actual measurements.  But you’re a great chef, so this doesn’t matter, right?  

First thing’s first – chop up your veggies, all of them (garlic included – slice that baby up).  Now, get out a large frying pan and cover the bottom with a smidge of olive oil, then add your chopped onion and garlic.  Set the heat to low and let your onion and garlic cook away.

While your onions are doing their thing, get out a large pot and add a little olive oil – just enough to slightly cover the bottom.  At this time you will first add the chopped eggplant so that it’s on bottom (it takes a bit longer to cook), then the zucchini and green pepper.  Set the heat to low/medium-low and cover with a well-fitted top – your veggies will be cooking themselves with the steam!  Now you will just want to check the vegetables occasionally and stir them here and there.  Once they’ve cooked a bit, add some salt (you’re a brilliant chef, remember?  You’ll know how much to add 😉 ).  

Have you been checking on your onions?  I hope so.  They should be about ready for the tomato puree.  So now add your puree, along with a touch of salt and a teaspoon-ish of sugar. Turn the heat to high so that your sauce starts to boil.  Meanwhile, give your sauce a stir or two, and then maybe cover it so that it doesn’t bubble and splat everywhere (like on my nice white blouse, thank you very much – I’ll be heading to the dry cleaner soon).  

Back to your veggies.  How are they looking?  They should just keep on getting softer and softer until they are kind of a mush.  That’s the objective – mush.  Once your veggies are a bit mushy, you will want to pass them through a colander in order to extract some of the water that they have sweat out.  Be sure to get out as much of the liquid as you can.  Once done, throw them back in the same pot and start adding your sauce.  Add enough sauce so that your veggies are covered but not swimming in it (you can use any left over sauce for pasta, pizza, or whatever apparently non-Spanish thing you think of).  Mix up the sauce and veggies over low heat just to cook everything together for a few minutes.  Give it a taste and add more salt if needed.

Now, if you’re feeling extra Spanish, this lovely dish should also be served with a fried egg as seen in the photo above.  Note too that if you aren’t so keen on some of the veggies listed, you can just as easily only use one type of vegetable, or even add others.  It’s up to you!

Don’t forget to accompany your dish with massive quantities of manchego cheese (because I said so).