As I sit on my couch writing this blog, the television is on in the background – well, foreground if we are getting really technical. I just saw/overheard a commercial that begins something like: “Food myth number one: cutting and chopping is relaxing after a long day at work…. yeah right, for who?!” Cut to a happy woman heating up a family-sized frozen, low fat dinner. I’m not going to lecture my readers about using frozen meals every once in a while – I think I was more taken aback by the tone of the commercial. I did not take offense, even if I do enjoy chopping and cutting up vegetables after work, but there are so many other more healthful, economical, and easy options for making dinner after work, or classes, or taking care of kids, or a tiring day lounging about the house watching an entire season of your new favorite show (Veronica Mars). In the time it would probably take to microwave a whole family-size dinner – you could probably boil water, cook pasta, drain, and toss with pre-washed spinach, a little olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Maybe throw in some leftover meat or other cooked vegetables. I really don’t like it when people hear “cooking” and automatically think they can’t do it, or it takes so much time and work. Sure, it can take time and attention, and there is a learning curve, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Maybe that’s just me.
Ok – now to today’s recipe – another farmer’s market meal with traditional late summer vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. This recipe also has the distinction of being my boyfriend’s favorite thus far.It was delicious, not one of my favorite dishes that I have cooked, but garlicky, crispy, seasonal, and fresh.
So here it is.. pretty easy I think, with just a little slicing and chopping involved.
adapted from: Crisp Tomato, Zucchini, and Eggplant Bread Gratin
serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side
1 small loaf of whole grain bread (mine was 1/2 lb.)
1 medium eggplant, cut cross-wise into 1/4 in. thick rounds
2 small-ish summer squash (one yellow one green)
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 T. or so of olive oil
1/4 c. chopped basil
1/2 t. dried thyme
salt and pepper
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
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. This step helps pull some of the excess moisture from the vegetables and helps make the eggplant less bitter.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
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.
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.
Bake the gratin for about 30 minutes, remove and top with Parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake until the vegetables begin to brown and the bottom of the bread is golden brown, about 10 more minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and let stand until cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve.