This easily adaptable recipe for Provençal Vegetable Gratin features regularly the menu at our house. It makes a fantastic side dish with just about anything but it’s also perfect for Meatless Monday as a satisfying vegetarian main dish. And yes, there’s a story behind this recipe as well!
Back in 1997, I was daunted by a friend’s conversion to a vegetarian lifestyle, especially as she was a regular dinner guest. Although I enjoyed eating vegetarian dishes, I wasn’t making many of them at home myself and my repertoire was seriously limited. Luckily The Vegetarian Society had just published The New Vegetarian Cookbook by Heather Thomas and it was so helpful. It helped me discover just how much I enjoyed making vegetarian recipes – as well as developing my own. The rest, as they say, is history! Sadly The New Vegetarian Cookbook is now out of print, although there are used copies available online.
One of my favourite recipes in the book is the Provençal Vegetable Gratin. It’s easy to make, fresh and always delicious. Over the years I have streamlined the cooking method and adjusted the ingredients to suit my family’s taste. For example, my husband isn’t a huge fan of cooked tomatoes, so I have reduced the amount used and I’ve changed the herbs originally called for. I also use a bit more cheese. Some may disagree, but to me, more cheese is never a bad thing.
For ease, I’ve dispensed with de-gorging the eggplant (aubergine). This is a process where the eggplant is cut, salted, allowed to sit and then rinsed in order to release any bitterness in the vegetable. I know many people feel this is a necessary step but I’ve never, ever done it and I’ve also never noticed any bitterness in the recipes I’ve made.
I tend to make this recipe differently depending on what I have on hand. Sometimes I add mushrooms to my Provençal Vegetable Gratin, sometimes I leave them out. The core ingredients for me are the onion, eggplant, the zucchini (courgette) and one or two tomatoes. Thinly sliced red peppers make a nice additional vegetable layer if you have them. As for the topping, you can use breadcrumbs as in the original recipe, or switch things up by using part potato chips (crisps) or my favourite, Ritz crackers. If you are a strict vegetarian, be sure the chips or crackers you use are made without using animal fats or by-products.
For even more variety, change the cheese around. Although I use Bookhams Vegetarian Pasta Cheese most often, I also use grated Parmesan, cheddar, gruyere or Swiss cheeses. You can even use a sharp Pepper Jack cheese if you want to add a bit of spice. Again, strict vegetarians should be careful that the cheese they choose is not made using animal rennets.
Provençal Vegetable Gratin is a lovely main course served alongside some crusty bread and a salad but it also makes a great side dish for both vegetarian and meat or fish dishes as well.
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 eggplant, cut in roughly one inch cubes
- 2 onions, thinly sliced (I like to use red onions when I can)
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 medium zucchini
- 2 to 3 medium tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- For the topping
- ½ cup fresh white breadcrumbs, crushed Ritz crackers or potato chips (or a combination thereof)
- ¼ cup grated cheese of your choice
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley or chives
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Slice the zucchini and the tomatoes thinly and set aside.
- Heat the 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Fry the cubed eggplant, onions and mushrooms (if using) until nearly golden.
- Grate in the garlic and add the oregano, a pinch of salt and a generous grinding of pepper to taste. Cook for a minute or so more.
- Spread over the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch (22 x 33 cm) baking dish.
- Place a layer of zucchini on top of the hot vegetables, overlapping the slices a bit like fish scales. Follow with a layer of sliced tomatoes.
- Top with another layer of zucchini slices.
- Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and cook for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley or chives.
- When the vegetable have cooked for 30 minutes, remove the cover and sprinkle the vegetables evenly with the topping mixture.
- Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and golden.
- Serve warm.
If you enjoyed this post you may also like Grilled Vegetable Tian.
Shared with Simple Supper Tuesday