Parmigiano-Reggiano adds salty, nutty richness to this ratatouille, which rivals the best oven versions. To speed preparation, feel free to skip the first step of salting and rinsing the eggplant and zucchini (this process draws off any bitter juices). Instead, just remove any particularly seedy and brown parts of the eggplant, or use smaller Japanese eggplants (which also do not need to be peeled). For pizzazz, add chickpeas and pitted, chopped oil-cured black olives. To make this dish vegan, swap in olive oil for the butter and skip the cheese (adding olives will make up for cheese’s saltiness).
When reheating the polenta, add liquid (such as chicken stock or milk), then adjust the seasoning if necessary with more salt, pepper, and butter.
Reprinted from the book Year-Round Slow Cooker by Dina Cheney. Copyright © 2013 by Dina Cheney. Published by Taunton Press.
|Cooking spray||1/4 cup tomato paste|
|2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces||1 can (28-ounce) whole peeled tomatoes|
|3 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces||1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves|
|3 1/2 coarse salt, divided||20 grinds black pepper, divided|
|7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided||1/2 cup packed freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano|
|2 small to medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced||6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock|
|2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces||1 1/2 cups polenta or coarse-ground cornmeal|
|3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic||4 ounces fresh goat cheese|
|1/4 cup all-purpose flour|
Grease the slow cooker with cooking spray.
Place the eggplant and zucchini in a large colander and toss well with 3 table-spoons of the salt; let sit for about 45 minutes. Rinse well to remove the salt, then dry well, gently squeezing out excess water with a kitchen towel. Add to the greased slow cooker.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. When warm, add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. As soon as it melts, add the flour and tomato paste, and cook until the mixture is thickened and the flour disappears, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes with their juices, thyme, and pepper (10 grinds). Cook, crushing the tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon, until thickened and smooth, about 6 minutes. Mix with the vegetables in the slow cooker.
Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 hours. Uncover and remove from the heat; immediately stir in the cheese and basil.
Make the polenta While the ratatouille is cooking, add the stock and salt (1 1/2 teaspoons) to a medium, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Once boiling, gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring every 3 minutes, until creamy and thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter(4 tablespoons), cheese, and pepper (10 grinds).
To serve Ladle polenta into individual bowls, spoon ratatouille on top, and serve immediately.
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