Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Eggplant and Tomato Gratin

When it comes to using produce from the farmers' market, I've made summer recipes featuring watermelon, cucumbers, peaches, and green beans, to name a few.  This vegetable gratin, with layers of Japanese eggplant, plum tomato, and zucchini, definitely benefits from the best, freshest veggies you can find.  I baked this recipe in an 8-inch dish, but you could also prepare the gratins in individual dishes for a whimsical feel.

  • 1 pound Japanese eggplant*
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 6 plum tomatoes
  • 2 medium zucchini
1. Cut the eggplant diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices, and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Coat the eggplant with cooking spray and sprinkle with the salt.  Bake at 375 degrees for 16 minutes, turning over halfway through.

2. While the eggplant bakes, combine the cheese, oregano, black pepper, and garlic in a bowl.

Note: I used Galaxy Foods' vegan mozzarella block tonight, which shreds nicely like fresh Parmesan.  Any white, shreddable vegan cheese would work in its place.

3. Cut the plum tomatoes and zucchini into 1/4-inch thick slices; set aside.  Arrange half of the eggplant slices in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Top evenly with half of the tomato slices, followed by half of the zucchini slices.  Sprinkle with half of the cheese mixture.  Repeat the layers: the remaining eggplant, the remaining tomatoes, the remaining zucchini, and the remaining cheese mixture.

4. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  Uncover and bake a final 10 minutes - the vegetables should be very tender.

The suggested serving makes small, side portions, but you can double servings in a pinch to make this your entree.  However, I liked serving it as part of a big summer repast - a fresh green salad tossed with bottled dressing from Organicville, crispy breadsticks, and this simple angel hair pasta with fresh herbs: in a bowl, toss together 8 cups hot cooked angel hair pasta, 1 cup chopped fresh basil, 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese (I used leftover Galaxy mozzarella), 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, and 3 minced garlic cloves.

*My market had Japanese eggplant - longer and thinner than globe or Italian eggplants - which makes for evenly-sized slices, but you can use globe eggplants instead if you prefer.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1/8 of the gratin), Calories 87

Tasting Notes:
This dish had the same flavors as a classic French ratatouille but in a less watery version, and I really enjoyed the play on the theme.  Easily some of the best eggplant I've ever had (not sure if that is the Japanese variety, which I've eaten little of, or the preparation, or both, but wow!)  A great way to highlight the veggies, since so little is added to them, and a wonderful pop of fresh oregano to each bite.  I would add a drizzle of olive oil, a touch more salt, and more fresh garlic, to take this dish from good to great.  The topping also seemed to be crying out for breadcrumbs - just a sprinkle - for crunch on top.


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