Friday, September 3, 2010

Summer Vegetable Stew

All fresh from the market. Then stewed.
More bounty from the farmer's market, and this time it started with eggplant. I bought four small ones without any plans for them, and the more I thought about it, the more my thoughts turned to a stewed item. I wasn't thinking about a ratatouille, exactly, or a caponata.

I started off by peeling and slicing and salting the eggplant. I know that some people don't peel or salt their eggplants, and that small ones are less likely to be bitter. But hey, they were my eggplants, and I had the time to do what I wanted.

I rinsed and squeezed the eggplant slices, chopped them into chunks, and tossed them into my slow cooker set to "brown." Oh - and there was a bit of olive oil in the slow cooker, too. I stirred those around occasionally as I prepped the rest if the vegetables: two medium zucchini, chunked, 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced, 1 onion, diced rather largely, and 1/2 of a bell pepper, large dice as well. All the pieces were bite-size.

Those vegetables all went into the slow cooker and got stirred around a bit, still on the "brown" setting.

Meanwhile, I peeled five medium-small tomatoes, cored them, and cut them into chunks. Those went into the slow cooker with a few pinches of salt and a generous amount of white pepper. I stirred again, put the lid on, and turned to slow cook.

This cooker in particular cooks at a very low temperature compared to my other one that can get up to a little simmer. So I wasn't too worried about these overcooking to mush. And I let them go for a couple hours. After that, the zucchini was cooked through, but not soft or mushy at all. See, it really does cook at a very low temperature. If you're cooking this on a stovetop it will cook a lot faster and require some stirring. I put mine in the crockpot and went to run errands, knowing it was cooking slowly and gently - and not heating up the house.

Just before the stew was done, I was looking around for a spice to finish it off, and almost went traditional with oregano or basil. But then I changed my mind and went with Zatar, instead.

The great thing about this dish is that it's just as good hot, cold, or at room temperature. It can be a side dish or a meal. Plain or over pasta or rice. Good thing, because I made a lot.