My last day of Christmas holidays and I find myself looking back on the past two weeks. Where did the time go? I especially remember Mom and Dad´s visit. They were arriving on the 23rd and I wanted to make sure that everything was perfect for their arrival. They live in Ronda, Andalucia. It is about a 5 hour train ride from Madrid and since I can´t see them as I often as I would like, I wanted to surprise them. As I prepared for their coming, I knew I had to refer to my friend, Julia child in order to make something special. I had her words in my mind: My parents would be the first to say, ¨Hey, we come to see YOU! Don´t worry about the food!¨. And my answer to that is that when you love a person, you make an effort to let them know how much. When my husband and I come to visit, they prepare us meals fit for kings and make sure to have our favourite things. Those are details that make memories so sweet. So, on that note, I explored and I found a lovely recipe for ,¨Sliced eggplant baked with cheese and tomatoes. It sounds more elegant in French, ¨Gratin DÁubergines, Provencal.¨(P. 354 Volume 2 ) It is a recipe which takes time, but it is worth it.
For the gratin:
- fresh ground black pepper
- 2 pounds (~900 g) eggplant (firm, fresh, shiny)
- olive oil
- 4 ounces (113 g) Swiss cheese, thinly sliced (I could not find Swiss cheese so I used Emmental..wonderful)
For those of you who don´t have the cookbook;
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅔ cup finely minced yellow onions
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 5 to 6 pounds ripe tomatoes, quartered
- ⅛ teaspoon sugar, plus more to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
- A large herb bouquet: 8 sprigs parsley, 1 bay leaf and 4 sprigs thyme, all tied in cheesecloth
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon dried basil, oregano, marjoram
- Large pinch saffron threads
- 1 dozen coriander seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 2-inch piece dried orange peel (or 1/2 teaspoon granules)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
- In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and cook slowly for about 10 minutes, until tender but not browned. Sprinkle on the flour and cook slowly for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally; do not brown.
- Meanwhile, fit a food processor with the coarse grating blade. Working in batches to avoid overfilling the machine, push the tomatoes through the feed tube to make a coarse purée.
- Stir the tomatoes, sugar, garlic, herb bouquet, fennel, basil, saffron, coriander, orange peel and 1 teaspoon salt into the pot. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes, so the tomatoes will render more of their juice. Then uncover and simmer for about an hour, until thick. The sauce is done when it tastes thoroughly cooked and is thick enough to form a mass in the spoon. Remove herb bouquet and taste. Season with salt, pepper, sugar and tomato paste, and simmer two minutes more. The sauce may be used immediately, refrigerated or frozen for up to 6 months.
For the Eggplant Gratin;
- Preheat the oven to 375° F/190° C.
- EGGPLANT: Halve the eggplant vertically and cut into 3/8-inch (~1 cm) slices.
- Bring water to boil in the 4 to 5-quart saucepan. Add salt, about 1-1/2 teaspoons per quart, and place eggplant slices in the hot water, about 10 to 12 at a time. Cook just for 2 minutes, then remove from the water with a skimmer or slotted spoon. Drain on the tray lined with paper towels. Pat the slices dry.
- In the skillet, pour a layer of olive oil about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thick. Heat till very hot but not smoking. Sauté eggplant slices about 1 minute on each side, and remove to the platter. Add more olive oil as necessary for the rest of the eggplant.
- ASSEMBLE: In the oiled gratin dish, arrange the eggplant slices purple side up in overlapping rows, with tomato sauce and cheese slices between each row. Pour about 1/2 cup of the tomato puree on top.
6. BAKE: Place the gratin dish on the cooktop and heat briefly until the sauce starts to bubble. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove the foil during the last 10 minutes to brown the cheese and thicken the liquid. Serve hot.
So, what was my parents´and husband´s reaction? They loved it! I had served the dish with meat and yet the men still raved about the veggies and cheese! I couldn´t believe it…but then again, what is NOT to believe about the goodness of Julia Child?
Enjoy! xxxxx Natascha
Some notes about this recipe:
* I used a graniteware casserole dish. It was perfect. I lightly coated it with olive oil before arranging the food.
* Prepare the meal ahead of time and reheat.