Vegetable Love 2009: Potato-Topped Baked Ratatouille

Here is my entry for the Fatfree Vegan Kitchen Vegetable Love 2009 contest. The theme of the contest is to cook low-fat, vegan, vegetable-filled dishes for Valentine's day. I really love the concept of this type of food because it's healthy: low-fat, low-to-no cholesterol, high in fiber and vitamins. While Valentine's day is typically seen as a holiday surrounded by chocolate and decadence, it really seems more loving to give your special someone something that will sustain them both body and soul. I mean, I want to give someone my heart, not give them a heart attack!

When I think romantic food, the type of food that comes to mind is French cuisine. Therefore, for my entry, I did a variation on the classical Provencal dish ratatouille. For this version, I cooked a variety of vegetables until they were meltingly tender underneath a layer of crispy potatoes. For those of you who thought you were a lifetime member of the Eggplant Haters Annonymous Club, this recipe might change your mind.

Potato-Topped Baked Ratatouille

1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup orange or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 lb eggplant, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 lb zucchini, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup white or red wine, whatever you are serving with dinner
1 14.5 oz can reduced sodium diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed between your fingers
10 leaves fresh sage, minced
2 tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp agave nectar or sugar, to taste (optional)
1/2 lb red potatoes (about 2 small-to-medium), thinly sliced
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat the over to 400 degrees F. Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Salt the water and add the potatoes and cook for 4 minutes to parboil them. Drain the potatoes and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray and add the onion and cook until partially translucent. Then, add the garlic and bell pepper and cook until the onion is completely translucent.
3. Add the eggplant, zucchini, and rosemary. Bring the heat to medium-high and cook until the eggplant and zucchini soften, about 10 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Cook until the wine has evaporated.
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sage, parsley, salt, and pepper. Drop the heat back to medium and cook, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste the mixture in between to see if the tomatoes are too tart; add the sugar or agave nectar if desired. The vegetables can be smashed with the back of your spatula to help make the mixture creamier.
5. Spray a 1.5 qt nonreactive baking dish with cooking spray. Layer in the ratatoille in the dish. Then, decoratively arrange the potatoes, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle them with a pinch of salt and pepper and spray with a little cooking spray. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Remove the foil and bake 20 minutes more, or until the potatoes become crispy and browned. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Servings per recipe: 2
Per serving:
Calories: 255
Fat: 1.4 g
Saturated fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 g
Sodium: 338 mg
Carbohydrates: 53.1 g
Fiber: 14.8 g
Sugar: 18.9 g
Protein: 8.9 g

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