In Which I Make a Favorite Early Fall Dish Using A Slow Cooker
My mother gave me a slow cooker last year, and it’s slowly but surely found its way into my culinary repertoire. You just chop up a bunch of stuff, throw it in, leave it alone for a few hours and boom! Food! I find meals made in a slow cooker in the fall and winter feel really cozy and comforting, so this season I made a resolution to discover more slow-cooked meals to add to my “rotation.”
This ratatouille recipe is what I think of as a “harvest” meal. All the fruits and veggies are pouring in, right before the season of squashes and potatoes, and what you have are lots of tomatoes, bell peppers and zucchinis galore. It’s priced to sell at the grocery store because it’s so plentiful, so I love to buy this kind of produce up. Ratatouille is a really nice way to use up an over abundance. I’ve had all kinds of ratatouille, from country stew-type of ones to more casserole-consistency. And they’ve all been good.
This particular recipe is the simplest one I’ve found. Here, the slow cooking really works to its advantage — slow-cooking the tomatoes really brings out the flavor, and you don’t even need a lot of oil. (Promise!) I found this in, believe it or not, that book French Women Don’t Get Fat. I thumbed through it at the airport bookstore a few years ago and this recipe caught my eye — it looked so unbelievably simple that even I could make it! So I surreptitiously jotted the recipe down, and when I got back to NYC, I made the dish — and I’ve been making it for years now. (I gank a surprising number of recipes this way, it’s so bad — just go to the library or bookstore, find a cookbook, find the one thing that I can manage and then scribble all the ingredients and steps down!) The original recipe called for it to cook over very low heat on the stove in a large stockpot, but I adapted it to the slow cooker. I think it transfers nicely.
It’s a superbly versatile dish, too. You first eat it as a thick and hearty soup, but the leftovers can be a satisfying omelette filler, a side dish to grilled or broiled chicken or fish, then sauce to a pasta dish and finally as a pizza topping. (Just throw on top of a flatbread or naan, top with some cheese and perhaps some more veggies and then stick it in the oven.) Anyway, the recipe is below…happy slow-cooking!