December is such a busy time of year for most of us. Lots of gatherings, shopping, school functions, sporting events, etc. I usually have a pretty open schedule and found myself booked 3 of the 5 work days this week. What?! However, busyness doesn’t mean you have to get take out. You are spending enough money everywhere else this month, you don’t need to eat out a ton too.
Enter your slow cooker. This awesome piece of kitchen equipment is the busy cook’s best friend. Throw some food in early in the day, cook some sort of starch to go with it, and you are good to go.
This ratatouille is perfect for a cold December night. Super hearty and filling, you won’t even miss meat. The goat cheese in the polenta adds the perfect tang. It’s just all around delicious. Enjoy!
Slow Cooker Ratatouille and Polenta (Serves 6-8)
2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
3 medium zucchini, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons canola oil
2 small red or yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves finely chopped garlic
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup tomato paste
2 (14.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves or 1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
1 ½ cups polenta or cornmeal (not instant)
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1. Place the eggplant and zucchini in a large colander and toss well with the salt; let sit for about 45 minutes. Rinse well to remove the salt, then dry well, gently squeezing out excess water with a kitchen towel. Add to the slow cooker that has been lightly greased with cooking spray.
2. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When warm, add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the flour and tomato paste. Cook until the mixture is thickened
and the flour disappears, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes with their juices, thyme, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Cook, crushing the tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon, until thickened and smooth, about 6 minutes.
3. Mix with the vegetables in the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low 4-6 hours or high 2-3 hours, until the vegetables are tender. Turn off slow cooker and stir in Parmesan cheese and basil.
4. About 30 minutes before vegetables are done, add the stock, cornmeal, and ½ teaspoon pepper to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently to prevent lumps. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until creamy and thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and goat cheese.
5. To serve, ladle polenta into individual bowls, spoon ratatouille on top, and serve immediately. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.
Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):
Protein: 12 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 18 mg
Carbohydrates: 46 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sodium: 579 mg
Recipe Notes: The eggplant is less bitter if you peel it and if you let it sit a bit with the salt. If you are pressed for time, it will still work if you don’t do either step. It might be a bit more watery, but not enough to kill it. I don’t love the taste of cooked red onions generally, so I prefer to mix and match here. I’m sure fresh herbs would be delicious here, but I don’t remember to buy them or the store doesn’t have the one I want. If you can’t find or don’t eat goat cheese, I would probably sub in more Parmesan. Or maybe cream cheese. I tried blue cheese once and didn’t love the combination personally, but it is an option as well.
Source: Slightly adapted from Epicurious.com