This is my kind of dish- it has over 30 cloves of garlic! It is wonderful for late summer- I was able to incorporate my beautiful CSA long red peppers and eggplant from a friend’s garden. I used canned tomatoes in the sauce but fresh would have been fabulous too.
This recipe was adapted from Fields of Greens: New Vegetarian Recipes from the Celebrated Greens Restaurant by Annie Somerville. We ate it over pasta with bread on the side; polenta would also be great.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 1 T olive oil
- 1/2 medium-size yellow or sweet onion, diced, about 1 cup
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano or marjoram
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, about 2 cups, or 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes with their juice, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
For the Gratin:
- 4 pounds Japanese eggplant, sliced 1/4-inch thick on a diagonal
- 4 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp coarse salt, plus more
- freshly ground black pepper
- 24 unpeeled garlic cloves
- 2 medium-sized red or yellow bell peppers, roasted, peeled, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 2 T chopped fresh herbs: marjoram, Italian parsley, and/or thyme
- tomato sauce
- 1 cup grated Fontina cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
- fresh basil, for garnish, optional
- cooked pasta and/or sourdough baguette
To Make the Tomato Sauce:
- Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan; add the onion, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft, about 7 to 8 minutes, then add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and simmer a minute or two to reduce; when the pan is almost dry, add the tomatoes and the bay leaf.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To Prepare the Vegetables:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
- Toss the eggplant with 3 T of the olive oil, the chopped garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few pinches of pepper.
- Divide eggplant slices between two parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
- Toss the whole garlic cloves with a little olive oil and place alongside the eggplant; roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until the eggplant is soft to the touch and the garlic is soft but still holds its shape. Set aside to cool.
- Raise the oven temperature to 500 degrees. Line another baking sheet with foil.
- Slice each pepper in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes.
- Lay the pepper halves cut side down on the foil-lined baking sheet, brush lightly with oil, and roast until the skins darken and blister, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the peppers from the oven, wrap in the foil to steam as they cool. After 10 minutes, slip off the skins. Slice 1/2-inch thick.
- Carefully peel the cooled garlic and toss it with the sliced roasted red pepper strips, the remaining olive oil and salt, a few pinches of pepper, and half the chopped herbs.
To Finish the Dish:
- Pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish, and layer the eggplant nearly upright (not flat) in rows across the width of the dish, overlapping the slices as you go. Continue to layer, packing the slices close together, until you’ve used all the eggplant.
- Tuck the pepper strips and garlic cloves in between the eggplant slices and sprinkle with the Fontina.
- Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. (I set my oven to convection.)
- Cover and bake for 20 minutes, then sprinkle with the Parmesan.
- Continue to bake, uncovered, for another 10 minutes, until bubbly.
- Sprinkle the remaining herbs and/or chopped fresh basil over the gratin just before serving.
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