Meatless Monday: Italian Vegetable Stew

This vegetable stew from America's Test Kitchen is an Italian favorite, full of garlic and herbs and olive oil to tie it all together. It's vegan, and if you don't feel like having bread, it's a gluten-free meal, as well. But most importantly, it's delicious.

Photo courtesy America's Test KitchenItalian Vegetable Stew (Ciambotta)
Serves 6 to 8
Pestata
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

Stew
12 ounces eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 1/4cups water
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
2 red or yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup shredded fresh basil

FOR THE PESTATA: Process all ingredients in food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute, scraping sides as necessary. Set aside.

FOR THE STEW: Toss eggplant with 1½ teaspoons salt in bowl. Line surface of large plate with 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 that eggplant cooks evenly.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in 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; add 1 tablespoon oil and tomato paste to clearing. Cook paste, stirring frequently, until 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 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.

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About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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