1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), plus some for drizzling
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
3 cloves garlic, 2 chopped, 1 whole, cracked from skin
2 onions, sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 eggplant, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 cup stock, chicken or vegetable
1/2 cup basil (10-12 leaves), torn or chopped
4 1-inch thick slices whole grain crusty bread
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Heat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add EVOO, bay leaf, chopped garlic and onions and let them sweat out while you prepare the rest of the veggies. Work next to the stove and drop as you chop, in order of longest cooking time: potatoes, eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add tomatoes and stock and cook five minutes more, to heat through. Turn heat off and stir in basil.
Char bread under broiler and rub with cracked garlic, then drizzle with EVOO, top with cheese and pepper and return to the broiler for 30 seconds to brown cheese. Serve cheesy whole grain toast with bowls of vegetable stew.