This combination of late summer vegetables is beautiful and bursting with flavour. The gratin’s layers of breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs absorb the savoury juices of the vegetables. Once it cools and settles, it can be sliced for a gorgeous presentation.
- 7 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 yellow onions, peeled, halved and sliced
- 1 large fennel bulb, halved, cored and sliced
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- kosher salt and ground pepper
- 1 globe eggplant (about 1.5 lbs)
- 2–3 small zucchini (about 1 lb)
- 1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 c fine fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/4 c basil, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 c flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1/4 c chives, chopped or thinly sliced scallions (green parts only)
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
- 3–4 beefsteak tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs), sliced 1/4″ thick
- Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet or braising pot. Saute the onions until they become translucent (about 3 minutes). Add the fennel, garlic, thyme sprigs and a pinch of salt. Saute until all the vegetables are golden, soft and sweet (another 20-25 minutes). Remove the thyme sprig and discard.
- Meanwhile, peel the eggplant, trim the ends and slice crosswise in 1/4″ slices. Place the slices on a heavy baking sheet and sprinkle both sides with salt, using about 1 tbsp of kosher salt in total. Let the eggplant rest to draw out the moisture until ready to assemble the gratin. Blot with paper towels on both sides.
- Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice crossways 1/4″ thick. Set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, combine the parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, basil, parsley, chives and chopped thyme. Mix well and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 400º F.
- In a 16×10″ oval gratin dish or shallow baking dish of similar capacity, spread the fennel-onion mixture in an even layer. Sprinkle with one-quarter of the breadcrumb mixture. Top with half the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly, then with another quarter of the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. For the final layer, make overlapping rows of sliced zucchini and tomatoes, pressing them firmly into place. Season with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining breadcrumb mixture and drizzle with the remaining 4 tbsp olive oil.
- Bake the gratin for 1 hour, then remove from the oven. Tip the baking dish slightly, and spoon some of the juices over the surface. Return to the oven until the gratin is nicely coloured on top and the zucchini are tender, but not mushy (about 10 minutes more).
- Let cool and set for at least an hour before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- My oval gratin dish is only 14×7″, so I made another small one in a small Lodge cast-iron dish and took it over to a neighbour for their dinner. Donations were gratefully received!
- Serving Size: 8