I know, I know, I just posted a ratatouille recipe earlier this week, but why wait to share another one when we’ve ALL got gobs of summer vegetables around right now? (A neighbor just gave me 3 more zucchini…notice I said ‘more’….hence another batch of ratatouille.)
While flipping through Cuisines Paysannes (Peasant Kitchens), a cookbook about farmers in southern Brittany, I came across a recipe for slow-cooked summer vegetables which the author said rivaled ratatouille. ‘But it’s really just a type of ratatouille,’ I thought. And, with a three-to-four-hour cooking time in the oven, it’s really not the kind of recipe I see myself making in the dead heat of summer.
Unless, of course, I transposed it to a slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Slow cookers haven’t made it to mainstream French cooking, which is weird since there’s a lot of long, low simmering going on in classic French recipes. Slow cookers also don’t really go with the whole traditional, farmhouse, peasant food angle of the cookbook, either. But hey. Given the choice between hanging around a hot kitchen for four hours or throwing everything in a slow cooker and doing something else for the rest of the day, I’ll ditch the peasant work and stick with peasant food—made a very practical, if very un-peasant-like appliance.
Slow-cooking the ratatouille may just be my favorite way to make it yet. The long, low simmer brought out the vegetables’ natural sweetness and tamed some of the garlic’s bite. (I added 8 whole unpeeled cloves, in keeping with the original slow-cooked vegetable recipe. They can be dug out of their skins and eaten right along with the other vegetables. ) Best of all, there was no work involved aside from chopping the vegetables. I DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO STIR.
Slow Cooker Ratatouille
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ lb. (650 g.) zucchini and/or eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes or pieces
1 large beefsteak or heirloom tomato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 lb./450 g.)
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces, optional
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled, crushed with the side of a knife or a rolling pin
6 to 8 sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, marjoram, basil – one or more, or any combination), or 2 Tbs. dried herbes de Provence, or 1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Pour olive oil into 3 or 4-quart slow cooker/Crock-Pot. Add all remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Cover, set the slow cooker to low heat, and cook 6 to 8 hours, or until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, remove the fresh herbs before serving, and either remove the garlic cloves, or leave them in and let people know they can peel off the skins and eat them. Serve as is, use as a pasta topping, or chill and drizzle with balsamic vinegar for a cold vegetable side dish.