With an almost overwhelming abundance of late summer vegetables in the garden or your CSA box, the ongoing search for new recipes continues. This recipe for a Summer Vegetable Gratin is a winner. Layering large amounts of eggplant, tomatoes, chard and basil makes one very flavorful gratin.
Ripe tomatoes and Walla Walla onions add a wonderful natural sweetness. Swiss chard adds a healthy measure of greens. Roasted eggplant adds complex flavor and a “meaty” texture. The 45 minute cooking time concentrates their flavors even more. And Pesto, as always, makes everything more delicious.
So what’s a gratin?
Gratin (pronounced as the French do: gra-TA) refers both to a baked French casserole with a crusty top, and to a shallow round or oval oven-proof dish in which the casserole is baked. Actually, a gratin can be baked in whatever heavy, shallow, ovenproof dish you have. Though, I do love my rustic 7 x 12- inch green oval gratin dish. It looks especially nice when set on the table for serving.
Healthier and lighter than traditional gratins, this recipe for Summer Vegetable Gratin recipe calls for less cheese and no breadcrumbs. Even without the usual crispy crust, it’s delicious. I’ve used two of my favorite cheeses, feta and soft goat cheese. Feel free to use another cheese such as mozzarella, cheddar, Gruyère or Parmesan if you prefer a cheese that melts a bit more. And, for an especially golden top crust, place your gratin under the broiler for the last few minutes of cooking.
Eggplant, aubergine, melanzana, ichiban, brinjal
Eggplants, known by many different names, appear in most every cuisine the world around. Right now, from August through October, this beautiful deep purple (lavender, jade green, orange or yellow-white!) vegetable has its prime season.
When undercooked, eggplant has an unpleasantly tough texture. Oven-roasting the eggplant with a little olive oil before layering it in the gratin, assures tender, tasty and fully cooked eggplant. After a number of experiments, I found that a hot 450 degree oven yields the deepest golden and most tender slices of oven-roasted eggplant.
I picked up this endearing eggplant the other day at the Saturday market. Too adorable not to share with you. Grown by the lovely ladies from Running Strike Farms here in Bozeman.
- Slow Roasted Tomatoes — The Essence of Summer
- Ratatouille – Classic Provençal Vegetables
- Roasted Garbanzos with Greens, Tomatoes & Garlic
Inspired by and adapted from a recipe by Deborah Madison in Vegetable Literacy.
Madison created this gratin after a violent hailstorm “shredded the chard and pockmarked the eggplant and tomatoes.” She added that this gratin is so moist and delicious “there’s no need to wait for a hailstorm to make this dish.”
This recipe can easily be multiplied. Leftovers are terrific. And, it’s gluten-free.
Makes 4-6 servings
Start to Finish 1½ hours
1 ½ pounds eggplant, 1/3-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced stem to flower end
¾ pound Swiss chard, stems ¼ inch dice, leaves 2” pieces
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup basil pesto
¾ pound tomatoes, ¼ inch thick slices
3 ounces (or more) crumbled goat cheese or feta
½ cup cherry tomatoes, yellow if possible
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for drizzling (optional)
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray or brush it lightly with olive oil
- Lay the eggplant slices out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush them with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake another 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the oven. Lower the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Stir in the sliced onion. Cover the pan and cook for 7 minutes.
- Uncover the pan. Stir in the chard stems. Cook another 3 minutes. Stir in the chard leaves. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cover the pan. Cook until the chard is just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Distribute half of the sliced eggplant over the bottom of the gratin dish. Season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the pesto.
- Cover the eggplant/pesto with half of the sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with half of the crumbled cheese.
- Top with all of the chard mixture.
- Layer the remaining sliced eggplant, pesto and sliced tomatoes. Scatter the whole cherry tomatoes on the top. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Drizzle with the optional extra virgin olive oil.
- Bake 45 minutes till hot and bubbly.