"Exact proportions aren't terribly important," Julia Child used to say about stews and soups, as she taught us to relax and have fun with serious cooking. Nowhere does that concept apply more than to this slow cooker ratatouille (pronounced rat ah TOO eee), a classic French vegetable stew that uses everything I can find in my garden or at our local farmers' markets right now: eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes and thyme. If you have more of one thing than another, that's fine. Want to add some olives? Fine. Have white mushrooms instead of portobellos? Fine. Stick in a small sprig of rosemary? Fine. Best of all, ratatouille works as a pasta sauce, an omelet filling, a rice topper, a side dish for grilled fish or chicken, a sandwich stuffer... well, you get the idea. It's versatile, healthy and vegan, and the slow cooker makes it oh-so-easy. I like my ratatouille vegetables cut into big chunks, and they'll hold up much better in the slow cooker if you go big, too.
Slow cooker ratatouille
1/4 cup olive oil
2 red onions, chopped
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 small eggplant, ends trimmed, cut into large chunks
3 small zucchini, ends trimmed, cut into large chunks
4 bell peppers (assorted colors), seeded, cut into large chunks
3 medium tomatoes, seeded, cut into medium chunks
4 portobello mushroom caps, stems removed, cut into large chunks
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves)
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch
In a large sauté pan or skillet, heat the oil over low heat, and add the onions, potatoes and garlic cloves. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, until the onions just begin to get translucent and the garlic hasn't begun to brown. Transfer the contents to a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker.
Add the eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, wine and thyme leaves. Cook on LOW for 3-1/2 hours, stirring once during that time.
Turn the cooker to HIGH, and add the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix the arrowroot or cornstarch with 6 tablespoons of water, to make a slurry. Pour that into the slow cooker and stir. Cover, and cook for 15-20 minutes on HIGH. The liquid in the cooker will be slightly thickened (and it will thicken more if you let the ratatouille chill in the refrigerator).
Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Ratatouille (a stove-top variation)
"Poor little eggplants"
Slow cooker Punjabi eggplant with potatoes
Grilled vegetable and goat cheese puff pastry tart with zucchini, mushrooms, peppers and onions
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Crockpot chickpea stew with balsamic caramelized onions, from Cookin' Canuck
Mediterranean beef stew with rosemary, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Simple eggplant tomato stew, from Cafe Liz
Armenian aubergine stew, from Nami Nami
Italian eggplant with crumbled beef, tomatoes and mint, from Gluten-Free Goddess
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