I’m a fan of my slow cooker. It’s not that it’s actually less work. It’s just that there’s such a long gap between when you do the prep work and when you get to eat it that you sort of…forget. Also dinner tends to be a sort of busier time for lots of people so it’s nice to be able to do the work during a calmer part of the day.
J. doesn’t like squash. Also, he doesn’t like eggplant. So, for several weeks in summer, he is very sad (though he doesn’t complain) to see how much of these things end up in our csa bag. He’s very flexible by nature and had a very good mother so he will eat something even if he isn’t a huge fan. But still, I look for ways to hide the taste of things that I know he doesn’t prefer.
This is the second recipe that I’ve attempted. I made Ratatouille’s Ratataouille first, with a couple of little adjustments based on what I had in my kitchen. While we were eating this time, he told me, “I liked that last one, even though it was Ratatouille. But this…this is really good!” Since I don’t have a problem with squash or eggplant, I really liked both of them, but my recipe is pretty different from hers.
So here’s my recipe for Crockpot Ratatouille.
about a quart of peeled diced tomatoes, fresh or canned or whatever
1 large or several small onions, finely chopped
several cloves of garlic, depending on your taste
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 or 3 summer squash or zucchini, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
a red bell pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
a green pepper, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
a few carrots, peeled if you like (or just washed) and thinly sliced
some red wine, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh herbs–I used parsley, oregano and thyme
shredded basil and some strong hard cheese to grate over top. I used a pecorino and it was delicious.
Put the tomatoes on to boil. As they are heating up, use whatever method you choose to make tiny pieces of onion and garlic. I used a food processor because I usually find using a knife to mince things tedious. But that’s just me. You can cook the onion and garlic in some oil for a bit, but I just tossed it in with the tomatoes and let it all boil down a little (with some water added until it looked saucy enough for me) while I cooked everything else. Just keep an eye on it.
Saute the eggplant, squashes, bell peppers and carrots separately over medium-high heat. I used some olive oil in a cast iron skillet, but a wok might be really nice too. The point of this is to seal in those flavors individually a bit before throwing them all together in the final dish. A little browning is okay, but don’t feel like you have to cook them all the way.
As you finish sauteing something, toss it in the crockpot to make room for the next thing. After you finish all of that, add the herbs and the tomato mixture. Pour in as much wine as you’re using (I think I used about 1/2 cup or so). Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours.
Serve over brown rice, quinoa (E’s favorite!), couscous, or whatever grain catches your eye.
Either serve with shredded basil and grated cheese on top if you’re fancy, or put it out on the table if you’re not. This is also a flexible dish to serve for gluten free (just make sure your grainy side dish is gf) or vegan friends (just leave the cheese off or get some sort of vegan not-cheese…although be careful because those are NOT all created equal…and some of them have casein, which is a vegan no-no as it is a dairy protein.)