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Overnight Ratatouille Express

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Provençal ragout avec aubergines! I made this vegetarian/vegan-friendly casserole last night when I realized we had all the right local vegetables in our fridge. The quantities of individual veggies could be changed quite a bit, and I think it would still be OK.

Ingredients:

— Dried beans
— Eggplant
— Zucchini
— Onions
— Garlic
— Basil and/or Italian parsley
— Really ripe tomatoes
— Salt
— Pepper
— Olive oil

Place the beans in a covered, ovenproof dish, cover them with twice as much boiling water as there are beans. Keep in mind that they'll double in size, so be conservative with the quantity of beanage. Let them sit about an hour, then drain them, reserving the soaking liquid.

Set the oven to a really low temperature, about 100 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit, or "warm" on most dials. Chop up all of the vegetables into chunks no bigger than the first joint of your thumb, smaller if you'd like them bean-sized. Mince the garlic and herbs. As you finish cutting up each ingredient, put it in the casserole as one layer, and sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper. Drizzle the whole thing with as much olive oil as you think you'd like — I used about 1/4 as much olive oil as there were beans. Ladle enough bean-soaking juice into the dish to cover the bean layer at the bottom. (I poked down with a spoon to see where the liquid was, but I suppose you could also just add the liquid first, before the veggies go in.) Cover the dish and set it in the oven for several hours.

I left this overnight for about 7 hours in a very low oven, but if you're not comfy going to bed with the oven on, you could also cook it this way during the day. If I were doing daytime cooking, I might boost the oven temp to 250 or 300 degrees to shave off two or three hours.

Serve over bread or pasta, or just eat it plain, as a hot or cold stew.

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