Spring is right around the corner and I am giddy with excitement for the farmers’ markets that will soon be brimming with fruits and vegetables. In anticipation, I put my slow cooker to work making a meatless meal that celebrates the tastes of summer. My recipe for Slow Cooker Ratatouille serves as a reminder that warmer days are right around the corner.
A traditional French dish, ratatouille is loaded with eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, red peppers, onions, and garlic. A touch of seasoning is added from a blend of spices including thyme, marjoram, oregano, and basil in herbes de Provence.
Ratatouille can be prepared in a number of ways including a simple sauté, a layering of the vegetables in a casserole dish and baking it in the oven or my personal preference of in a slow cooker. The flavors of the vegetables and spices blend and mellow while cooking without becoming mushy. With a little chopping and measuring, the slow cooker does most of the work for this dish.
A vegetarian dish that benefits from the addition of cannellini beans, ratatouille can be a side served with grilled chicken or fish. It can also be served on top of creamy Parmesan polenta, pasta, rice or with a loaf of crusty French bread for a filling, satisfying, and healthy dinner. Any leftovers can become a filling for omelets, tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a cold vegetable salad or as a topping on crostini for an appetizer.
Slow Cooker Ratatouille
Serves 6 as a side or 4 as an entree
4 cups eggplant, large dice
3 cups zucchini, large dice
2 cups tomatoes, large dice
1 cup red pepper, large dice
1 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 can (8-ounce) tomato sauce
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
Directions: In a slow cooker, combine eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, red pepper, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Pour tomato sauce over vegetables, stir to combine, and cover with the lid.
Set slow cooker on low heat setting for 4 1/2 to 5 hours or on high heat setting for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. About 10 minutes prior to the end of the cooking time, stir in the cannellini beans.
Serve as a side dish or as an entrée over rice, pasta, or polenta topped with basil and shredded Parmesan cheese.
Nutrition information per serving as a side dish (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 153 calories; 19 calories from fat (3 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrate; 8 g dietary fiber; 10 g protein; 270 mg sodium.
Amy Casey, of Sparta, is a cookbook author and a food columnist for the New Jersey Herald. She has developed a wealth of recipes as a personal chef and also while cooking for her own family of five. See more of her recipes on her website www.amycaseycooks.com. Her recently published cookbook is entitled Dinner for a Year 52 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Spice Up Your Family Menu Planning. Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amycaseycooks and on Twitter at @amycaseycooks.