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|Makes 6 servings|
|There are many ways to make a ratatouille, the Provençal vegetable ragout with eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions and tomatoes. In Provence, we just cooked everything together in the pan. But in this lighter version you can use less olive oil, because you roast the eggplant before cooking it with the rest of the vegetables. Ratatouille really benefits from being made the day before you wish to serve it.|
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise, and score down the middle, making sure not to cut through the skin. Place on an oiled baking sheet (or baking sheets if one isnt big enough), cut side down. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the skins begin to shrivel and the edges against the pan are browning. Remove from the heat, transfer the eggplants to a colander, cut side down so they can drain, and allow to cool in the sink, where they will release some of their juice (meanwhile you can prepare the rest of the vegetables). When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, cut the halves in half lengthwise along the score line. Peel away the skin if you wish, and cut into 3/4-inch dice. Set aside.Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Oil a large heavy lidded casserole, preferably earthenware, with olive oil.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring, until they have softened. This should take about 5 minutes. They will be translucent and the slices will be flexible. Add half the sliced or minced garlic and cook, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes, until the onions have just begun to color. Remove from the heat and transfer to the casserole.
3. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over medium heat and add the peppers. Stir for a couple of minutes and add about 1/4 teaspoon salt, or 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the peppers begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and the remaining sliced or minced garlic. Continue to cook, stirring, for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the zucchni looks translucent. Transfer to the casserole with the onions. Add the diced eggplant, half the tomatoes, and the tomato paste to the casserole. Stir in the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and about a teaspoon of coarse sea salt, or 3/4 teaspoon fine salt. Stir everything together, cover and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes.
4. Stir in the remaining tomatoes and garlic. Taste and adjust the salt. Add freshly ground pepper and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Stir in the basil, cover, and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight if possible. Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve hot cold, or room temperature.
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