Food & Wine (September 2008)
There are dishes that taste of seasons.
Green salads mark the arrival of spring, while BBQ chicken always conjures summer in our minds. And short ribs evoke winter in all their braised glory. For us, fall means honeycrisp apples and butternut squash, and we're terribly excited about both coming into season.
But right now we feel like we're in between seasons: The weather is cooling off, but it's still awfully warm. Some summer vegetables are still widely available -- we even got tomatoes last week from our CSA -- and fall vegetables are just coming into season.
If pressed to identify a taste that captures this summer/fall limbo, we nominate this Crisp Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant Gratin.
Last summer we nearly drowned in eggplant -- our CSA had an abundance of it and we took home several pounds each week. We could never quite find recipes that seemed just right, except for the Barefoot Contessa's fantastic Roasted Eggplant Spread.
If we only knew then what we know now!
This simple gratin, made with season vegetables cooked atop pieces of torn bread, is simply phenomenal. Roasting the vegetables brings out all their wonderful flavors. The bread crisps up amazingly, providing a nice contract with the vegetables. And the herbs -- basil and thyme -- add to the dish's fresh taste.
We plan to make this -- or an adaptation of it -- many times in the future.
What flavors are you most excited about for fall?
ACTIVE TIME: 30 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 50 MIN
* 1/2 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
* 1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
* Kosher salt
* 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 4 garlic cloves, minced or mashed
* One 14-ounce loaf rustic white bread, crusts removed and bread sliced 1/2 inch thick
* Freshly ground pepper
* 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
* 3 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
* 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a colander, toss the eggplant and zucchini with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and let stand for 20 minutes. Drain well and gently squeeze out any excess liquid.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir the olive oil with the garlic. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garlic-infused oil. Tear the bread into 2-inch pieces and line the bottom of the baking dish with bread, fitting the pieces tightly together. Drizzle the bread with 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the bread with half of the basil.
3. In a medium bowl, toss the eggplant and zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the tomato slices with salt and pepper. Arrange the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes over the bread, overlapping them if necessary. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves, salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining garlic oil.
4. Bake the gratin for about 40 minutes, until the vegetables begin to brown and the bottom of the bread is golden brown. Remove the vegetable gratin from the oven and let stand until cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining basil, cut into pieces and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The gratin can be baked up to 2 hours in advance. Reheat in a 350° oven or serve at room temperature.