There is something about that Fall wind, swirling those colorful leaves outside your window, the chill in the air while walking your Berner in the woods or the geese squawking their goodbyes for the season, that makes you crave that soul comforting bowl of inner warmth – Ratatouille. This iconic stew of eggplant, tomatoes, corgettes (zucchini and summer squash to us) and onions is indigenous to the South of France and, while it seems simple on the surface, each chef that has cooked this dish since its inception has had subtle and various nuances in style, flavoring and technique.
As for me, Fall also being a time of checking off many tasks and chores to prepare for the season ahead, the technique best suited for this classic is the slow cooker. Put away the pool furniture, pull out the docks, winterize the Chis-Craft, split the firewood that you will be feeding that giant stone work of art in the middle of your custom White Cedar log home Great Room, all while “cooking” this classic. Plus, the aroma of this mélange of flavor, slowly bubbling in that crockpot all day, permeating every square inch of your home, will help trump and drive out any attempt of introducing the scourge of Autumn – pumpkin spice…
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, cut into large cubes
2-3 zucchini and/or summer squash
1 large can stewed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons organic tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon favorite herbs de Provence or Italian (I know using Italian here instead of French could start a war, but McCormick’s grinder is FANTASTIC for this)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Trim the eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes, place in colander, sprinkle with sea salt and let “sweat” while prepping other vegetables. Cut squash/zucchini and onions into 1-inch cubes, and place in the insert of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Add stewed tomatoes to the slow cooker.
Wisk together tomato paste, sea salt, pepper, Italian spices and lemon juice.
Add eggplant to slow cooker. Add tomato paste mixture and stir together.
Cover the slow cooker and cook until the vegetables are extremely tender, 4 hours on high or 5 to 6 hours on low. Add capers for last half hour of cooking. If you’d like to cook off some of the excess liquid in the slow cooker, cook uncovered for the last 30 minutes.
Stir in the basil and taste for seasoning, adding more salt as needed. Drizzle with more olive oil before serving if desired.
Serve with your favorite grilled/roast pork recipe and generous amounts of DOMAINE DE CALA COTEAUX VAROIS EN PROVENCE or INMAN ENDLESS CRUSH ESTATE ROSÉ.
And I was just kidding about the movie. Slip on your Acorns, stoke a fire, ladle a dish of that Ratatouille, pour a glass and call it up on Netflix. Good story – Rat meets boy. Boy meets girl. Good triumphs Evil. Everyone lives happily ever after…