September has arrived and it is almost time to say goodbye to summer~ I will miss all the fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and nice weather! I have been working on a tutorial to share with my readers and it took a slight detour. My friend and neighbor asked me if I would make her an organic eggplant gratin two days ago. I have been busy with chores and trying to finish the tutorial, I had been working on and after seeing the recipe, I figured I could make her recipe and still accomplish what I started out to do, exchanging recipes.
With that said let's get started!
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Step 1: Back Yard Gardening
This year we had a smaller organic garden than usual, but we did enjoy the fresh tomatoes, grapes, and herbs all summer. We have friends that have been very generous with their bounty and we enjoy fresh organic eggs every now and then ~ Our apricot tree has not given us a crop in several years. We have fruit on the tree every year but either the rain, wind, or freeze damages the fruit before April. I have missed canning them. We lost all of our peach trees five years ago, when they just got too old~
Step 2: Recipe Ingredients and Utensils
Recipe Ingredients: We recommend locally grown organic products for this recipe.
1 Large or 2 medium eggplants (choose smaller heavier eggplants with firm bodies, smooth skins,and green stems( not brown) ( over ripe egg plants will cause the eggplant to be bitter. and have more seeds)
2 Medium zucchini approximately 1 pound
3 Large round ripe tomatoes
3 Small yellow squash If you can find squash that is straight, use them for best results.
Seasonings and Olive oil: to be distributed between all the produce and bread crumbs
1/2 Cup or slightly more Organic Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 Tablespoon herbs de Provence Note: herbs de Provence contains lavender refer to note in next step.
1 teaspoon Pink salt or what ever you like
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Bread Crumb Mixture:
1/2 Cup slightly chunky bread crumbs I used one slice of French bread and will use 2 next time.
1/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
herbs de Provence The recipe ingredients for the spices and oil were a little confusing, I assumed they were divided among the vegetables and bread crumbs.
Utensils: Medium size shallow baking dish,cheese grater and measuring cups and spoons and a Mandoline slicer if you have one;for slicing the produce, large baking sheet,paper towels or dish cloth to blot the salt from the zucchini,colander, and a tool for removing the tomato core.
Recipe 6-8 servings
Step 3: Wash Produce and Measure Ingredients
You may need to add more seasonings or oil depending on the size of the produce you will be using. If you have not tasted herbs de Provence before, I recommend tasting it first. A lot of people do not like lavender which is an ingredient in this spice. There are plenty of alternative recipes for making this spice online.
Step 4: Slice Eggplant
Pre-Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
Trim the ends of the eggplant and slice on the diagonal into ovals 1/2 inch thick.
Grease the baking sheet generously with 1/3 cup olive oil.
One at a time,lay the slices on the sheet,press to lightly coat with oil and turn them over.
Arrange the slices, with the oiled side up,in a single layer and lightly sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of each; salt and herbs de Provence.
Bake for about 15 minutes; the eggplant slices should be soft and a little shriveled; allow to cool while you proceed slicing the rest of the produce. Please set a timer to remind you so you can go on to the next step to save some time.
Trim the ends off the zucchini and cut lengthwise into strips no larger than 1/4" thick. I mistakenly cut mine into rounds! More to do with them, in the next step.
Core the tomatoes and cut into round slices 1/4 inch thick. Spread the slices onto a large baking sheet and lightly season them with 1/4 teaspoon of ground pepper.
Cut the ends off the yellow squash. I cut mine into 1/4 inch circles because of the shape. The instructions were not clear about how to slice the squash. The tricky part is the squash was small so I had to layer a few on top of one another so the squash would be level with the rest of the produce. I managed to lightly oil some of the pieces so they would stick together long enough for me to add another layer of produce.
Step 5: Prep Zucchini
Lightly salt the zucchini on both sides and let it set for about 15 minutes to allow the salt to draw out moisture from the zucchini. Then wipe the salt and moisture off, using a paper towel. This step is very important to prevent a soggy casserole.I mistakenly cut mine into rounds on an angle.The last picture shows how wet the paper towels were after drying a few rounds.I used several paper towels in the process.
Step 6: Grate the Cheese and Mix the Bread Crumbs
Grate the Parmesan cheese if you have not already done so.
Mix the bread crumbs,Parmesan and one teaspoon of the herbs de Provence together.
Add 1 Tablespoon of Olive oil to the crumb mixture and toss until the pieces are well coated.
Step 7: Oil Baking Dish and Layer the Sliced Vegetables
Oil the baking dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and lightly dust 1 teaspoon of the herbs all over the bottom.
Arrange the eggplant slices lengthwise, against the narrow side of the baking dish as shown.
Place the long zucchini slices in front of the eggplant as shown, then proceed with the tomato and squash pieces, until the pan is filled.
Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the casserole and drizzle the remaining oil over the top of the bread crumbs.
The casserole can be made in advance for a few hours if you do not add the oil (at the very last). Do this just before baking.
As soon as I had finished layering the produce in the baking dish, I was so tempted to bag the idea of making my friend the recipe she gave me (and make hers the next day) and tweak the one I was working on ! If there had been white cheese in my refrigerator at the time,I would have omitted the bread crumbs and used the cheese instead but there was not time to make the switch. I can imagine how much more beautiful this dish would have been, by layering thin white or yellow cheese in-between the vegetables, the colors would have been more vibrant and eye catching~ I hope you can see the vision I had, and maybe you can give it a whirl. It would be easy to swap out the seasonings and add fresh herbs changing the type of dish altogether. I will be playing with the recipe in the future. This recipe is a great one to try different variations without making several batches~
Step 8: Bake and Remove From Oven and Serve
Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit:
Place the dish in the oven and bake for 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft,mixture is bubbling and the top is a golden brown. Serve hot. 6-8 servings.
Step 9: Final Thoughts
Organic produce has a shorter shelf life than regular produce and people buying organic have to shop more often . . . they will be getting more nutritional benefits from the foods they eat, because produce begins to lose nutrients as soon as it is picked.It is less expensive to buy locally grown produce which in turn reduces the amount of resources we use.
I wanted to share a lot more information in this tutorial but will have to share it in a new instructable. Since we don't go shopping as often as we used to, I miss out on the short season produce that only last a few weeks. I have decided to keep a copy of the locally grown produce on my refrigerator. I am going to organize my recipe file so I can plan a month in advance for seasonal recipes and take advantage of the reduced price and quality of food I am purchasing.
Here is the link to search produce grown locally seasonal produce guide
the guide has useful information about food storage and why produce can be bitter and other useful tips.
If you do a google search there are websites that give you information where to get coupons for organic foods.
I will share the links in the new instructables after I have had an opportunity to review them a little more closely.
Thanks for stopping by and do have a splendorous rest of the summer~
Second Prize in the
Organic Cooking Challenge