Eggplant and Zucchini Gratin

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.

Bouef Bourguignon a la Julia Child

Last weekend, we went to see the movie "Julie and Julia." I might have to go see it again. Anyone who loves food will will love this movie. I particularly enjoyed the scenes of the two women preparing meals, which is one of my passions.

"Julie and Julia" is two stories in one. The first tells the story of Julia Child’s beginning in the in the cooking profession in 1950s Paris. It is intertwined with the second, blogger Julie Powell’s 2002 challenge to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s first book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," in 365 days in her tiny Queens, N.Y., apartment.

The movie stars Meryl Streep as Julia Child, Amy Adams as Julie Powell and Stanley Tucci as Julia’s husband, Paul. I can’t imagine Streep not winning an Oscar for her performance. Adam and Tucci also were outstanding.

One recipe that I took particular interest in was for Bouef Bourguignon‎, a wonderful dish that raises a simple stew to an artform. I’ve never made it but have thought of the day when some will be simmering on my stove.

I don’t have Julia’s cookbook but do have the recipe, which I found on the Internet. I would love to publish it here, but permission is needed from the publisher.

So, here is a another, based on the famous recipe. If you’re contemplating making this dish, remember that the true recipe for success is hope, love and a double batch of Bouef Bourguignon‎.

Bouef Bourguignon a la Julia Child
6 ounces bacon, solid chunk
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine (a full-bodied wine like Bordeaux or Burgundy or Chianti)
2 to 3 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, mashed (you may choose to add more)
1 sprig thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
18 to 24 white pearl onions, peeled
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ tablespoons olive oil
½ cup beef stock
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2 sprigs parsley
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Prepare the bacon: cut off the rind and reserve. Cut the bacon into lardons about ¼-inch thick and 1½ inches long. Simmer the rind and the lardons for 10 minutes in 1½ quarts of water. Drain and dry the lardons and rind and reserve.
Preheat the oven to 450 degree.
Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large (9- or 10-inch wide and 3-inch deep fireproof casserole and warm over moderate heat. Saute the lardons for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.
Dry off the pieces of beef and saute them, a few at a time in the hot oil/bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Once browned, remove to the side plate with the bacon.
In the same oil/fat, saute the onion and the carrot until softened.
Pour off the fat and return the lardons and the beef to the casserole with the carrots and onion. Toss the contents of the casserole with the salt and pepper and sprinkle with the flour. Set the uncovered casserole in the oven for 4 minutes. Toss the contents of the casserole again and return to the hot oven for 4 more minutes.
Lower the heat to 325 degrees and remove the casserole from the oven. Add the wine and enough stock so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic and herbs and the bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.
Cover and place in the oven, adjusting the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours.
The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
While the meat is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms and set them aside till needed.
For the onion, if using frozen, make sure they are defrosted and drained.
Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and add the onions to the skillet. Saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes, rolling the onions about so they brown as evenly as possible, without breaking apart.
Pour in the stock, season to taste, add the herbs, and cover. Simmer over low heat for about 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but retain their shape and the liquid has mostly evaporated. Remove the herbs and set the onions aside.
For the mushrooms, heat the butter and oil over high heat in a large skillet. As soon as the foam begins to subside add the mushrooms and toss and shake the pan for about 5 minutes. As soon as they have browned lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, remover the casserole from the oven and empty its contents into a sieve set over a saucepan.
Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it (discarding the bits of carrot and onion and herbs which remain in the sieve).
Distribute the mushrooms and onions over the meat.
Skim the fat off the sauce and simmer it for a minute or 2, skimming off any additional fat which rises to the surface. You should be left with about 2½ cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of stock. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency.
Taste for seasoning.
Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.
If you are serving immediately, place the covered casserole over medium low heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve in the casserole or on a warm platter surrounded by noodles, potatoes or rice and garnished with fresh parsley.
If serving later or the next day, allow the casserole to cool and place cold, covered casserole in the refrigerator.
Twenty minutes before serving, place over medium-low heat and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 913 calories, 53 percent of calories from fat, 54.2 grams fat (20.1 grams saturated, 24.6 monounsaturated, 3.8 grams polyunsaturated, no trans fat), 168 milligrams cholesterol, 1.120 milligrams sodium, 28.5 grams carbohydrates, 3.9 grams dietary fiber, 56.1 grams protein, 10.8 grams sugar.