In southern France, particularly along the Mediterranean coast, ratatouille is ubiquitous on summer menus. It is equally delicious hot, warm or at room temperature, and tastes even better after a day in the refrigerator. The addition of fresh basil and briny capers just before serving heightens the flavors of the vegetables. Perfect for serving alongside roasted or grilled meats, it also makes a super vegetarian supper when served atop couscous or pasta, or topped with a poached egg and served with a hunk of bread.
- 1 eggplant, about 1 lb. (500 g)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 Tbs. tomato paste
- 3 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for serving
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise into narrow strips
- 3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into slices about 1/3 inch (9 mm) thick
- 4 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise and seeded
- 1/4 cup (1/3 oz./10 g) finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) capers, rinsed
Cut the eggplant into chunks about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. In a colander, toss the eggplant with 1 tsp. salt, then let drain for about 30 minutes. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, oregano, 1 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper.
Arrange about one-fourth each of the eggplant, onion, bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes in a layer in the bottom of a slow cooker insert. Spoon one-fourth of the tomato paste mixture over the top. Repeat to make 3 more layers each of the vegetables and the tomato paste mixture. Cover and cook on the low-heat setting for 5 hours, stirring a few times if possible. The vegetables should be tender.
Transfer the ratatouille to a serving dish and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, stir in the parsley, sprinkle with the basil and capers, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Serves 4 to 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Quick Slow Cooking, by Kim Laidlaw (Weldon Owen 2014)