A Simple Gratin to Celebrate the Summer Garden
It’s a cliché at this point, but I’ll say it anyway: there’s no finer time for eating than late August in Maine.
The garden is the best we’ve had in many years thanks to severe spring rains and the hot sunny days of July and August. The eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, and herbs are particularly abundant and inspired this quick, weeknight gratin. An arugula salad, cold white wine, and a bowl of linguine or crusty bread makes for a great dinner, a simple way to say thanks for all the glorious summer weather.
Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomato Gratin
Gather all the ingredients from your garden or the farmer’s market. Serve with crusty bread or linguine tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. You can make the gratin several hours ahead of time, and refrigerate until ready to bake.
3 small to medium eggplant, purple, white, or Japanese variety
About ¼ cup olive oil
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
3 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons very thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Panko or breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each eggplant in foil and bake on the middle shelf for about 30 to 40 minutes (depending on the variety), or until just tender when you touch it (or gently squeeze it) in the middle. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Cut the ends off the eggplant and cut into thin (about ½-inch) slices, and set aside.
Lightly oil a large gratin dish, broiler pan, or cookie sheet with a rim. The idea is to create layers along each edge, alternating a slice of eggplant next to a slice of zucchini next to a slice of tomato next to a slice of mozzarella, in any order that appeals to you. Repeat with all the eggplant, zucchini, tomato and mozzarella creating two to three rows of alternating vegetables, depending on the size of your pan. Sprinkle the garlic, scallions, basil, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper evenly on top. Drizzle 3/4 cup of the Parmesan on top and drizzle with the remaining oil. You can cover and refrigerate the gratin for up to 6 hours at this point.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the gratin on the middle shelf for about 45 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the zucchini feels tender when tested with a small, sharp knife. Sprinkle the top of the dish with the Panko or breadcrumbs, the remaining Parmesan, and spoon some of the juices from the bottom of the pan on top of the breadcrumbs. Bake another 5 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, the cheese is bubbling and the dish is very hot. Remove from the oven and serve hot with linguine or bread, or both. Serves 4.