I've always loved food, but, loving food sometimes needs to be aided by knowing how to taste food. In the movie, they talk about how flavors mix for that awesome experience of great taste. It's not like adding A1 sauce to a good steak (not that there is anything wrong with that), but, a good steak needs no sauce, and the flavor just makes you... well, sigh!
Last week, it hit me to make it (Finally, it only took me this long to remember to make it) and after a few searches online for the recipe I found out that there are hundreds of them, from what I gathered, there are two way of making the dish:
After refreshing my memory on our local "Farmers Market" (Thank you Susan) I wondered over to it and got what I needed. Finishing up at the supermarket for the few items that I could not find at the farmers market.
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small eggplant (my store sells these “Italian Eggplant” that are less than half the size of regular ones; it worked perfectly)
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 small yellow squash
- 1 red bell pepper
- Few sprigs fresh thyme (some recipes called for bay leaf as well, but I did not use it)
- Salt and pepper
- Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving
I think it's important to find an eggplant that is similar in size as the other vegetables, i.e. zucchini and squash; this will help with the uniformity of the presentation.
Preheat oven to 375° F
Add the tomato puree, sliced garlic, chopped onions and one tablespoon of olive oil into the baking pan, oval, square (it does not matter), mix the ingredients and add salt and pepper to taste (the more the better tasting), spread the contents evenly in the pan.
Now to the slicing!Trim the ends of the eggplant, zucchini and squash and start slicing, if you have a slicer great! if not, it's ok, a sharp knife will be your great asset here, slice them very thin (about 1/16th of an inch) its ok if you get some thick ones!
I sliced all the vegetable and uniformly left them on the cutting board until it was time to layer them in the pan. This was actually a fun part.
The Layering Process!Here is where the presentation starts, on top of the puree mix start at the edge of the pan by layering the slices, one of each of the vegetable (eggplant, zucchini, squash, pepper), be sure to leave only a little bit exposed of each as you layer the next vegetable on top of it. Work your way on the outer edges first, eventually working your way inside the pan. There is a good chance that you will have some extra vegetable, if you want you can prepare a separate dish with the puree, onion, garlic, oil, salt and pepper; that's what I did!
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. (Tricky, I know, but the hardest thing about this.)
Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.
Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.
It may sound complicated, but I've cooked the dish twice now, and it's easier the second time, this simple, yet awesome tasting french summer dish will melt in your mouth; Plus, if your kids are not that big into vegetable, why not tell them, it's just like in the movies!
I hope you enjoy it, as much as my family and I did!
recipe used is from smittenkitchen.com (recipe here)
the pictures however are from my own cooking experience!