4 tablespoons butter
4 cloves garlic, 2 cloves finely chopped, 2 thinly sliced
8 slices baguette, sliced 1-inch thick
2 teaspoons dried herbes de Provence or dried thyme leaves
1/2 cup shredded or grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 pound firm, small zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium onion, chopped into 1/2-inch dice
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 can San Marzano tomatoes (28 ounces), for sweeter stew, or diced fire-roasted tomatoes (28 ounces), for smokier stew
1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar
4 extra-large or jumbo eggs
A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
Melt the butter in small pot over low heat, then add the 2 cloves of chopped garlic. Let the garlic bubble for 2 minutes. In a medium size bowl, add the bread, 1 teaspoon dried herbes or thyme, about 1/3 palmful, and the cheese. Drizzle the garlic butter over the bread mixture and arrange the croutons on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and evenly brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Croutons may be stored in an airtight container for a couple of days in a cool place.
Salt the eggplant and drain it in a colander for 30 minutes to remove the bitterness from the eggplant. Meanwhile, blacken the skins of the red peppers over open flame on the stove or under a hot boiler. If broiling, leave the oven ajar to allow the steam to escape. Put the blackened peppers in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Peel, seed and dice the peppers.
While peppers cool, heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat with EVOO, two turns of the pan. Add the eggplant, zucchini, remaining sliced garlic, onions, rosemary and remaining 1 teaspoon of herbes or dried thyme. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, then cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Crush the tomatoes by hand and add them to the pot. Stir in the red peppers and 1/2 tomato-can of water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to concentrate the flavors. Cool and store for a make-ahead meal.
To serve, bring the ratatouille back to a simmer over medium heat, covered, then uncover and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Make four nests or wells in the ratatouille and crack an egg into each nest. Cover the pot and cook the eggs to desired doneness, about 2-5 minutes. Scoop the ratatouille and eggs into shallow bowls and top with croutons and torn basil.