Here in Chicago it has been snowing non-stop for the better part of three days. The sidewalks are slick. The streets are slow-moving. And everything is covered in a light, white dusting.
Being a lifelong Midwestern gal, I can handle the snow. If I'm being totally honest, I even kind of like it. But the cold is what gets to me. As I write this, it's in the single digits, and I'm wrapped in a blanket, sipping a cup of chai. These midwinter months are really about perseverance, about just getting through it because there's the promise of Summer In Chicago on the other side.
And one of the mainstays of my wintertime repertoire - along with a couple choice soups - is a warm, hearty ratatouille. As a reformed vegetarian, I have a special place in my heart for meals that give veggies the starring role. So when my mom introduced me to ratatouille several years ago, I was immediately sold.
More recently, I have fallen in love with Molly's ratatouille recipe from her lovely memoir, A Homemade Life (which, on a side note, is a perfect read for a lazy Saturday... and you'll want to make everything). It's wholesome and hearty yet easy to make on a weeknight. Gradually, I've started to experiment with her recipe and have recently put my own spin on her classic. Tonight, despite my penchant for vegetarian dishes, I decided to put some homemade Italian sausage into the stew to add a bit of flavor and depth.
Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille with Italian Sausage
Adapted from A Homemade Life
1 eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices
1 pound Italian sausage, either sliced or taken out of casings
3 zucchini, halved and sliced into half moon slices
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 bell peppers, chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
28 oz can of chopped San Marzano tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange eggplant rounds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Brush each side of the eggplant with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through. After the slices are browned on each side, remove from the oven and set aside.
Cook the Italian sausage in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once browned, remove from the pan and set aside. In the pan drippings, add the zucchini and cook until browned and tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Once finished, remove the zucchini from the pan as well and set aside.
Now add the onion and cook until slightly softened, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes, add the bell pepper and garlic and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The peppers and garlic should be tender but not browned.
Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme and bay leaf, and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sausage, eggplant and zucchini and cook for about 20 minutes more, until everything is tender.
Just before serving, adjust seasonings if needed and sprinkle the basil on top.