Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ratatouille - Summer Veggies with an Old World Attitude

If you have an overabundance of summer vegetables coming from your home garden, or like myself, are a bit overzealous in the produce department of your local grocery store, Ratatouille is a good way to put those vegetables to good use. Traditionally it is a combination of tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and onions and garlic for flavor. It can be seasoned with bay and or thyme, or herbs De Provence. There are about as many ways to make it as there are people who make it, ranging from a simple saute of all the vegetables together to a more complex layering approach, in which the eggplant and zucchini are sauteed separately and the other components are made into a sauce. The sauteed vegetables are then layered in a casserole dish with the sauce in between and baked.

I chose a simple approach this time around by using my trusty slow cooker to do all the hot, hard work. Instead of sauteing the vegetables I layered them in and set it to high. Using the slow cooker is convenient because there is no constant baby sitting at the stove and it doesn't unnecessarily heat up the kitchen. A win/win scenario for a simple summer dinner.

Ratatouille a la Slow Cooker

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

1 small eggplant, thinly sliced (about 1 - 2 cups)

2 small zucchini, thinly sliced (about 1 - 2 cups)

1 bell pepper, diced

6 - 8 plum tomatoes, sliced (about 1 cup)*

Parsley, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

Pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your crock pot. Dice or slice your vegetables and add them in layers to the pot. The sliced vegetables should be uniform in size and shape so that they cook evenly. Add a handful of parsley, chopped and season with salt and pepper to taste. Give a quick stir and cover. Cook on the high setting for at least an hour, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. There should be enough moisture in the vegetables to roast them with out burning, but if they look try, add a little bit of water, vegetable stock, or maybe even some white wine.

* In the non-summer season when quality fresh tomatoes cannot be found, substitute one small can of low salt diced tomatoes for the fresh ones.

My presentation of the Ratatouille is accompanied by a pan seared Talapia fillet, sauteed in butter, with a red wine reduction poured over top. Yum!

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