Anyone who gardens knows that by the time Aug. 15 rolls around, there is an abundance of almost all the vegetables that were either transplanted or grown from seed. That’s especially true for tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini.
Here’s a recipe that includes all three, a colorful eggplant and zucchini gratin, which comes from “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home” by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin (Knopf, $40). It’s an appropriate choice, since today would have been the 100th birthday of Child, the grand old lady of the culinary world who died in 2004, but not until she had deciphered French cooking techniques and but brought them to us through TV.
Eggplant and Zucchini Gratin
½ cup or more olive oil, divided
1 large or 2 medium eggplants, about 1¼ pounds
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 medium zucchini, about 1 pound
3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, about 1 pound
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
½ cup or so fresh bread crumbs (not too finely ground)
1/3 cup or so freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Put the rack on the lower-middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
Smear a large, shallow-rimmed jelly roll pan generously with 1/3 cup of the olive oil.
Trim the ends of the eggplant and slice it on the diagonal into ovals ½-inch thick.
One at a time, place the slices on the sheet; press to coat lightly with oil and turn them over. Arrange the slices, oiled side up, in a single layer and sprinkle them with ½ teaspoon each of herbes de Provence and salt.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until the eggplant slices are soft and somewhat shriveled; allow to cool briefly. Leave the oven on if you will be baking the gratin right away.
Meanwhile, trim the ends of the zucchini and cut them lengthwise into slices no more than ¼-inch thick. Core the tomatoes and cut into slices ¼-inch thick. Spread out the slices and sprinkle them lightly with ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
To assemble the gratin: Coat a gratin or shallow baking dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle a teaspoon of the herbes de Provence all over the bottom. Place one or two eggplant slices, lengthwise, against a narrow side of the dish. Arrange a long slice or two of zucchini in front of the eggplant, then place two or three tomato slices in front of the zucchini. Repeat the procedure to fill the pan with alternating rows of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes. Arrange each new row of slices so the colorful top edges of the previous row are still visible.
In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and remaining herbes de Provence. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, then toss and rub it in with your fingers to coat the crumbs but keep them loose. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the vegetables and drizzle the rest of the oil over all.
Place the dish in the center of the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft, the juices are bubbling and the top is a deep golden brown. If the crumbs need more browning, put the dish under the broiler for a few moments. Serve hot, directly from the baking dish.
Cook’s note: After the vegetables are assembled and topped with the crumbs, the gratin can be covered lightly and stored in the refrigerator for several hours. Preheat the oven and drizzle on the last olive oil just before baking.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 203 calories, 68 percent of calories from fat, 15 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 14 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 420 milligrams sodium, 3 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.