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Slow Cooker Ratatouille

written by Marsha Seidelman, M.D.

Adapted from a food.com recipe

I received my first produce box from Hungry Harvest and there was one big beautiful eggplant. Roasting eggplants has not been my favorite cooking activity -  too much trouble.  Or maybe I've burned my fingers too many times trying to work with it before allowing it to cool. So instead I looked for a slow cooker recipe so there'd be no piercing, roasting, scooping, etc. And this recipe seemed flexible enough to allow me to use the red peppers and cilantro from the box as well as other odds and ends from the fridge. I'm totally focused on not wasting food these days!  

As I mentioned in a previous slow cooker post, herbs get faded out with long cooking times. If you're adapting a traditional stovetop recipe to the slow cooker, you usually need to triple the herbs needed. Fresh herbs especially lose their flavor. Since I prefer to use fresh rather than dried herbs, I added them to this recipe by putting in a 1/4 cup of basil at the beginning, and another 1/4 cup when the dish was finished and just waiting on 'warm' to be eaten. I also added plenty of cilantro, a sweet potato and a few scallions ... just because I had them. I was concerned this time because I've never filled my slow cooker close to the brim. Since these ingredients don't expand like grains that I use in other dishes, though, I thought I'd be safe. In fact, the cooker was only half full by the end!

Think of this as a slow cooker version of stir fry to use up any extra veggies. The sweetness of the 1 teaspoon of sugar and the tomatoes and Vidalia onions went a LONG way. This was really good - and the house smelled great!

Ingredients (think of these as a rough guide):

2 large sweet onions, cut in half and sliced
1 large eggplant, sliced, cut in 2 inch pieces (skin on - it's totally soft and edible by the end)
1-2 sweet potatoes
2 small zucchini, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 large green or red bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into small chunks
28 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste (optional)
1 teaspoon dried basil (I used 1/2 cup of fresh basil - half added at the beginning, half at the end)
1/4 cup cilantro (optional - also half at the beginning, half at the end)
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano (I prefer ground, but flakes are fine)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
1⁄4 cup olive oil
red pepper flakes, to spice it up

Directions:

1) Layer half the vegetables in a large crock pot in the following order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes.
2) Next sprinkle half the basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper on the veggies.
Dot with half of the tomato paste, if using.
3) Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.
4) Drizzle with olive oil.
5) Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.

Refrigerate to store.
May freeze up to 6 weeks.

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