Eggplant, Squash, and Cherry Tomato Hash With Baked Eggs

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Here's a dirty little secret: the content we produce is largely affected by the content you consume. That means that the more readers like you search for and read-up on a specific topic, the more of that topic you're going to see, whether it's ramen or crazy Asian pizza. And, according to our handy site-metering tools, the hot topic of the moment is ratatouille.

I hate to disappoint you, but this is not a recipe for ratatouille. That said, it's pretty darn close.

As anyone who's ever grown zucchini, eggplants, or squash can tell you, they're the type of plants that experience late-life growth spurts. They're garden procrastinators. They'll give you a reasonable number of fruits and blossoms to work with throughout the bulk of the summer, then one morning you'll look out the window over your plant beds and see enormous zucchini hanging out on the plant all casual-like, as if they're saying, "Who, us? We've always been here, mate."

Finding useful ways to use them up is a challenge. Here's one way to do it.

This dish is somewhere between a stew-like ratatouille and a chopped vegetable hash, and it starts with eggplants. Because of their insanely porous, sponge-like structure, eggplants are very difficult to cook in a reasonable amount of oil without some form of pretreatment. My go-to method is to microwave slice in batches on layers of paper towels, which breaks down their structure enough that excess moisture can be pressed out easily. Baking them sandwiched between two rimmed baking sheets lined with towels works as well, if you've got the time to spare. Once pressed, they can be sautéed in oil and will quickly take on color and flavor.

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I like to cook my squash and zucchini separately from the eggplant—a trick I learned from traditional ratatouille that helps you develop flavor more easily without letting the delicate vegetables turn to mush. By transferring the vegetables to a plate as I cook in batches, I can complete the whole thing in a single skillet. Similarly, I finish the dish by cooking down onions and garlic separately before tossing everything back together, making some wells to break eggs into, and finishing it in the oven until the egg whites are just barely set but the yolks are still golden and runny.

With the amount of olive oil I like to use in this dish, I wouldn't exactly call it light breakfast fare—it'd even make a great simple supper or lunch—but damn if it isn't tasty. This is when you break out your best extra-virgin and forget the definition of moderation.

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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