Here’s one stew that you have to make before summer slips away. Ciambotta, a traditional Southern Italian stew is chock-full of summer vegetables that are simmered in a thick and hearty tomato-enriched broth. It’s the perfect way to use up some of the abundant summer produce from your garden. Ciambotta (pronounced chahm-BOHT-tah) is very similar to ratatouille and makes for a hearty one-bowl meal. Serve with crusty bread for a hearty and satisfying meal that will fill you up without weighing you down.
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Italian Vegetable Stew (Ciambotta)
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/3 cup fresh oregano leaves
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the Stew:
- 12 ounces eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided, plus more to taste
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 ¼ cups water, divided
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved and chopped coarse
- 2 zucchini (8 ounces each), seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup shredded fresh basil
- To make the Pestata: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process all ingredients until finely ground, about 1 minute, scraping sides as necessary; Set aside.
- For the stew: In a large bowl, toss eggplant with 1½ teaspoons salt. Line the surface of large plate with a double layer of coffee filters and lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in even layer over coffee filters. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to touch and slightly shriveled, 8 to 12 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure even cooking.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion, and potatoes; cook, stirring frequently, until eggplant browns and surface of potatoes becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of pot and add 1 tablespoon oil and tomato paste to the clearing. Cook paste, stirring frequently, until a brown fond develops on bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water and chopped tomatoes and juice, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and gently simmer until eggplant is completely broken down and potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until smoking. Add zucchini, bell peppers, and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet; add pestata and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir pestata into vegetables and transfer vegetables to bowl. Add remaining ¼ cup water to skillet off heat, scraping up browned bits.
- Remove pot from heat and stir reserved vegetables and water from skillet into vegetables in the Dutch oven. Cover pot and let stand for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Stir in basil and season with salt to taste; serve.
Yields: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Source: Cook’s Illustrated, May 2012
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