Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ratatouille (in the crockpot)

I had a bit of an eggplant dilemma over the weekend.  You see, I have a bit of a habit of buying unknown-to-me-produce at the farmer's market.  The cuter the name and the cuter the item, the chances are great that it is coming home with me, even if I have no idea what I am going to make with it. 

That was the situation last weekend, when I purchased these at the farm:

The purple and white globe is apparently a Graffiti Eggplant, the long and narrow ones are Green Goddesses, and the short round ones are the adorably named Kermits. 

(C'mon, would you have been able to leave a Kermit at the farm?  Especially with the meat case just a few dangerous feet away?)

So they came home with me and there they sat, awaiting some decision from me as to what I would make. 

Over the weekend, I had ratatouille on my mind so I turned to Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook  by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. Sure enough, on pages 133-134, there's a slow cooker recipe for ratatouille, described as a regional vegetable stew from Provence.

1 large eggplant, 1.5 lbs., peeled and cut into 1" cubes (I used the graffiti eggplant, one Kermit, and one Green Goddess because the graffiti wasn't what I would have considered large)

1 medium sized yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium-size or large bell peppers (green, red, orange, or yellow), seeded and cut into big squares
10 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or one 14.5 oz. can diced plum tomatoes, drained
2-3 cloves garlic, to your taste, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
5 zucchini or summer squash , ends trimmed and cut into thick rounds
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, to your taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Put the cubed eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Let stand 1 hour to drain.  Press out the excess moisture with the back of a spatula and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Combine the eggplant, onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic in the slow cooker. Pour over the olive oil and toss to coat.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 1-1.5 hours or on LOW for 2-3 hours.

3. Stir in the zucchini.  Cover and continue to cook for HIGH for another 1.5 hrs. or on LOW for 2-2.5 hours. The last hour, add the basil and season with salt and black pepper.  The vegetables will be cooked but will still hold their shape.

Some serving ideas mentioned in the book include serving hot with crumbled goat cheese sprinkled on top (this is what I did, especially since I can't resist any opportunity for goat cheese), at room temperature with lemon wedges and freshly grated parmesan cheese, or cold drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Serves 4-6.

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