My sister-in-law Amanda is a chef. I know. I know. Why has it taken me this long to get her to create a recipe especially for SPC? It was just that she's always seemed so swamped. I've had to be careful about asking. Here's how our phone conversations would usually go. "Hi, Amanda. It's me. Oh, you're in the middle of making 90 million stocks and duck confit tacos. Ok, nevermind." But I finally nailed her down this summer. The New England States were being battered by Hurricane Irene and she was stuck in the house. With a zillion tomatoes she rescued out of her garden before the storm and a surplus of eggplant lying around, she decided to craft this dish. (Obviously a chef has a bunch of eggplant around. Me? I have headless goldfish crackers littering my kitchen counters.) Thankfully, she completed the gratin before she lost power.
A fan of everything tomato-y (think caprese salad and bruschetta), Amanda wanted to make tomatoes the star in the gratin. She layered them with the eggplant and three different cheeses since "anything with cheese is a friend of mine," Amanda explains. Despite having her same feelings about cheese, I like the way the dish also comes off looking like a lasagna, making it more appealing to kids. Although Logan, Amanda's 11 year old son, had already given it the kid stamp of approval. A cooking school graduate himself, Logan enjoys being in the kitchen, has a great eye for plating and, according to mom, makes a mean lemon meringue pie. However, he has the most fun with their mini fryer making donuts. "Once I even bought some pre-made wontons and spring roll wrapper, I made all the fillings and placed them in little bowls. We just sat around the dining room table filling our own wontons and spring rolls. It was so much fun and delicious," said Amanda. Donuts and homemade spring rolls? I'm in.
Heirloom Tomato and Eggplant Gratin
3 medium eggplant, thinly sliced
8 – 10 large heirloom tomatoes, various colors, thinly sliced
3 large onions, thinly sliced
4 small shallots, thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
¼ cups olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz crumbled goat cheese
2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup basil, finely minced
¼ cup oregano, finely minced
¼ cup thyme, finely minced
1 ½ c Breadcrumbs (recipe follows)
Freshly ground black pepper
Sprinkle eggplant slices lightly with salt, layer between paper towels, and sweat for at least an hour. Layer tomato slices between paper towels and drain for at least an hour.
In the meantime, in a large skillet over medium heat caramelize the onions, shallots, and garlic in olive oil and butter until a deep golden brown.
Rinse and dry eggplant. Lightly spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray. Place eggplant in a single layer and lightly spray the tops with cooking spray. Roast for 10 mins in a 450 oven. Let cool.
Toss together the herbs.
Lightly spray a 14 x 10 x 2 pan with cooking spray, add the caramelized onions, shallots, and garlic. Spread evenly across the bottom. Very lightly season with kosher salt and black pepper. Lightly sprinkle with herbs and then with the shredded cheddar. Layer with tomatoes. Overlap the tops/bottoms and sides. Very lightly season with kosher salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle with herbs. Add a layer of crumbled goat cheese.
Layer with eggplant. Overlap the tops/bottoms and sides. Very lightly season with kosher salt and pepper. Sprinkle with herbs. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Layer again with tomatoes. Overlap the tops/bottoms and sides. Very lightly season with kosher salt & pepper. Lightly sprinkle with herbs. Add a layer of shredded cheddar cheese.
Sprinkle top with breadcrumbs & shredded parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350 until sides are bubbly and top is golden brown. Allow to rest 15 mins before serving. You'll notice there will be a lot of water in the pan. Not to worry, it's from the tomatoes.
8 – ½ “ thick Italian bread
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Granulated garlic powder
Heat oven to 325. Drizzle bread with oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Bake until bread is very crisp. Allow to completely cool. Place in a zip top bag. With the smooth side of a kitchen mallet, pound until coarse consistency.
This dish is perfect a Sunday family dinner. According to Amanda, it can really "be the meal alongside a light salad and fresh bread." However, you could serve it with "some grilled salmon or shrimp." Either way, you're guaranteed leftovers and that always means dinner the next night too.
Now, we just need to get Amanda to give us that donut recipe. A healthy version, of course.