Summer Veggie Gratin
A huge version of this vegetable gratin has been parked in my recipe collection for probably more than a decade now. And it’s definitely a summer crowd pleaser — fresh-tasting, a great main dish for vegetarians, a tasty side for meat-eaters. But in its original iteration, it is gigantic, invented to take a pre-outdoor-concert picnic with a large group of friends. Consequently, I find myself not really interested in making it more than once a summer, since that one recipe usually results in a least a week of leftovers, if not more.
I’m a little ashamed of myself that it’s taken this long for me to cut this one down to two-person size, but at least I finally did. Which has lead me to make it a couple of times already this summer and it’s gone over like gang busters every time (in spite of the fact that Mr. Kitchenette is not the world’s biggest eggplant fan). And here it is, just in time for the height of summer tomato/zucchini/eggplant season. If your garden is going crazy, this is a great way to deal with it. And if the garden of someone you know is gong crazy, feel free to pass this one along.
Summer Vegetable Gratin
After years of making mediocre eggplant dishes, I discovered purging. Don’t skip salting the eggplant; it draws out the liquid, which is bitter, saving the gratin from ending up soupy, bitter or both. Using a mandolin will ensure all your vegetables are sliced to the same thickness, but you might have to wing it (preferably with a serrated knife) on the tomatoes.
1 small eggplant (about 1 lb.), cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 large zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 medium onion, minced
1 fennel bulb, minced
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/8 to 1/4-inch slices
1 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped chives
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350.
Lay out eggplant slices on a wire rack with a paper towel underneath and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let eggplant purge and drain for about 30 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel before layering into gratin.
Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Sauté fennel and onion until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, herbs, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly (you can keep it classy and mix them in a bowl, but I started doing it in a baggie years ago and still find that allows for optimal mixing).
Brush a 3-quart gratin dish with olive oil and spread half the onion and fennel mixture in the bottom. Overlapping the edges of the vegetables by half, layer the tomatoes on top of the onions and fennel, then one third of the breadcrumb mixture, then the zucchini, another third of the breadcrumbs, then the eggplant. Top with the other half of the onion and fennel mixture and top that with the remainder of the breadcrumbs.
Bake for 1 hour or until brown on top and bubbling around the edges. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.