Make this recipe. Just make it. Oh, I know, you have family members who hate vegetables.
“Have some more zucchini?” is a question you dare not ask because there will be rebellion at the dinner table.
“Eggplant, anyone?” will get you banished to the room over the garage.
Do not fear. Trust in caramelization. It’s like the movie Field of Dreams. If you cook it [long enough], they will come. They will come to the table, they will eat, they will ask for more.
This gem of a recipe comes from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn. It’s an example of the creative style and simplicity of the recipes Lucinda has developed to feed a husband and three boys, and herself.
The recipe claims this will feed 6 to 8 people. Utter nonsense. There were 4 of us at our dining room table and we almost sobbed when there was no more. No third serving for anybody! This vegetable mélange is incredibly delicious and equally, wonderfully simple to prepare.
You stack vegetables in layers creating a tall bounty. That’s the first picture above. Then you cook and let the stack dissolve, yielding up juices that refine the cooking process and igniting caramelization to provide natural sweetness. The cooking proceeds beyond caramelization to actual charring. The collapse almost eliminates identifying eggplant from zucchini. It’s all just dark stuff, that, because of the juices, is not at all dry or tough or crusty. Just delectable. That’s the second picture.
This is an excellent year-round dish. I can see it on a Thanksgiving table just as readily as it adorned our summer feast with the outside a balmy 80°.
We served this as a side to short ribs, wonderful short ribs that you will see in tomorrow’s post. All you need in addition is a deep, dark bottle of red. This meal is Malbec territory.
Char-Baked Tomato, Zucchini, and Eggplant
Yield: serves 6 to 8 normal people, 4 if they love charred veggies
• ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 onion, peeled and sliced
• 5 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 small eggplant, about 6 inches long, thinly sliced crosswise
• 2 zucchini, about 5 inches long, thinly sliced lengthwise
• 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Pour some of the olive oil to cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch rectangular or 12 inch oval baking dish. Layer in half of the onion slices and one third of the tomatoes. Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a layer of eggplant and sprinkle on more salt. Add another third of the tomatoes, the zucchini, garlic, thyme, and the remaining onions. Top with the remaining tomatoes. Press down on the mixture with your hands. Pour over the remaining olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Don’t worry. The vegetables will be piled high but collapse as they cook.)
Bake uncovered for 1V2 hours. After 45 minutes, press the mixture down firmly with a spatula. The vegetables should be reduced in height, and should be brownish black and caramelized, almost charred in places. Return to the oven to finish roasting.
Let cool for at least 10 minutes, so the mixture can solidify a bit. Cut into squares and serve.
Sources: Mad Hungry: Feeding Men & Boys by Lucinda Scala Quinn
Photo Information [upper]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/40th second at ISO-3200
Photo Information [lower]: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for 1/30th second at ISO-3200