Slow Cooker Summer Ratatouille Stew
By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
It’s August already! (Where is the summer going in such a big hurry?)
Around here, August is typically very hot. Although I live in the city, I often drive in the Cincinnati-Dayton corridor, which is that highway span of humanity’s sprawl between here and there, dotted with farms, orchards and growing suburbia. When I first moved up to Ohio from Florida in the very early 1990’s, there was so much more of rural landscape to see, but as the years pass, the corners fill in with more people. and of course, residential development. So where once nearby I could drive up to the farmer’s wagon on the corner to get his fresh picked corn, I have to drive further out of the beltway to get there.
But the markets are still there. The best ones for me are much further afield, where I might have to drive down a country lane to get there, wondering how things will work if another vehicle comes from the other direction. In some places, even nearby (if you know where to look) you can even come upon Amish communities. But they stick to themselves. It’s not like everywhere you go in Ohio or Pennsylvania that you are going to see one of their buggies. But there are tell-tale signs, like the towering wind turbines you can see from afar, because they don’t eschew all electricity. They just want to be off-grid.
In years past, there were a number of Amish and Mennonites that would bring their stuff in to the weekend flea markets (there are several huge ones between here and Dayton), but not so much any more. The ladies who sold marvelous baked goods are disappearing, although there are still a few who sell their own raised beef and poultry.
And then there are the U-Pick farms. I grew up picking our fruit from places like Eckert’s in Freeburg Illinois (east of St. Louis) and they had wonderful peaches and apples. There has been a bigger selection in Ohio, but even some of those have disappeared, probably with the owners retiring and no one to take the reins. I used to love picking my own tart cherries at a place south of Xenia Ohio. They closed long ago. But here and there I can find places (if not always pick your own)- for the demands of tart cherries, gooseberries, lodi and transparent apples, and black raspberries. Difficult to procure to begin with, some years the weather doesn’t cooperate and the crops are short lived or small. You have to keep sharp eyes.
Of course, Ohio is perhaps most well known for it’s corn (and soybeans). I have my favorite places.
Right now, they are buried under corn, Athena cantaloupe, sugar baby watermelons, peaches, blackberries, zucchini, tomatoes, early season eating apples (such as MacIntosh), candy onions (large very fresh sweet onions), okra, sweet and hot peppers, and the beginnings of the winter squash. Plus many others, depending on the grower. This will morph more heavily into apples and things like gourds and pumpkins into September,with apple season peaking the third week of September and by then, jack-o-lanterns are everywhere along with corn shocks bundled up, and lots of kettle corn, pies and caramel apples- and the king of this area: fresh apple cider. I could go on and on about cider, and how to make sure you find the best blend, because cider is not created equal.
But for right now, I am knee deep in midseason vegetables, which make a great healthy stew. I know it’s hot out, but that’s why we are using the crockpot, right?
This is just chock full of garden vegetables, which if you haven’t grown yourself, are overflowing at the farmer’s markets right now. Of course, they are not growing that red wine around here. I mean, they *do* have wineries but most of the Ohio wines are sweeter or from Concord grapes. There is a lot of wine locally that makes some good sangria, if you are into that.
This stew is SO healthful! Right now I am doing low carb, and this is just what I need if I feel like maybe I have been getting too much meat or cheese. It is back to basics with the vegetables.
I find that the flavors in this are often what I am craving when I want pasta as well. I don’t really like the feel of spaghetti landing like a brick in my belly whether I am cutting carbs or not–it is just too heavy. But this is nice and brothy, not heavy at all.
This should carry you right into early autumn too, until the tomatoes run out. And then you can use canned peeled whole tomatoes, which will be fine.
I love that this doesn’t heat the house up, being made in the crock. And on really warm days you can easily serve this at room temperature so it has less of a warming effect. But we really shouldn’t fear soups and stews in the warmer months- we eat warmed up food all the time. I mean, who likes a cold French Fry?
I often serve this kind of thing at room temp with a piece of fresh French baguette, with that flaky crumb on the outside and remarkably tender but chewy inside, with just the right amount of tang. And don’t forget the butter. And a glass of wine. But let’s skip the concord grape wines and go straight for something like Argentine Malbec, shall we? (My foodie friends and I from my old Zaar days have been cooking up a storm of Argentine recipes recently- so I have to give this wine its nod and due).
And my blogging friends have teamed up to share our favorite Farmer’s Market recipes, which will go on all week long. You know the drill if you have been reading Palatable Pastime for very long- you can find the linked recipes below, and check back for new ones every day. Enjoy perusing them- I know I will! ~s
Slow Cooker Summer Ratatouille Stew
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 whole bulb garlic, cloves separated and peeled
- 2 cups diced mild-medium garden peppers (sweet bell, hungarian, banana, cubanelle, etc.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence
- 1/2 cup dry red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- salt and black pepper (to taste)
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 pounds ripe garden tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
- 1 pound eggplant, peeled and diced
- 2 medium zucchini squash, diced
- Saute the onion, garlic and peppers in the oil with the Herbs de Provence until slightly softened, then add the balsamic vinegar and wine and cook until that has evaporated. I don’t chop the garlic- it gets mild during cooking.
- Add the onion mix to the crock along with everything else and stir.
- Cover the crock and cook on low for about 6 hours or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
From the kitchen of palatablepastime.com