• 2 baby eggplants or 1 very small eggplant (about 8 oz.)
  • 1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 large yellow summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 15- to 19-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary or thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1-1/2 cups low-sodium tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon white or regular balsamic vinegar
  • 4 1/2-inch slices baguette-style French bread
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons finely shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. If desired, peel eggplant. Cut eggplant into 3/4-inch pieces (you should have about 3 cups).

2. In 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker, combine eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, cannellini beans, tomato, garlic, rosemary, pepper, and dried basil, if using. Add tomato juice.

3. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Stir in fresh basil, if using, and balsamic vinegar.

4. Meanwhile, for croutons: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush bread slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the Romano cheese. Place bread slices on baking sheet. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted.

5. To serve, ladle vegetable mixture into bowls. Top with croutons and sprinkle with remaining Romano cheese. Makes 4 (1-1/2 cup) servings.

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