Gratin Languedocien

Description

Also known as Eggplant Gratin, I haphazardly put together these ingredients in this fashion not knowing that it would result in a classical French dish. Nautrally, this has brought joy to my heart :) and knowledge of a new dish! This gratin is hearty, much more so than it looks, so be not fooled by its seemingly small size. The eggplant- a well-known meat substitute in terms of providing something with good texture and firmness- goes very nicely with the tomato and cheese. This one took me a while if for no other reason than I was making it up as a went… only to now find that it’s a traditional recipe (though mine was, of course, slightly different)… go figure!

Gratin Languedocien / Eggplant Gratin

Ingredients (for 3):

  • 1 large eggplant, rinsed
  • 1/2 can (small) tomato chunks in juice (suggestion: Muir Glen Organic natural tomato chunks)
  • Approx. half-dozen fresh campari or cherry tomatoes, sliced thickly
  • Approx. 1 tablespoon pesto (suggestion: basil or cilantro)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 – 1&1/3 cup low-fat ricotta cheese (depends on how much room you have in your ramekins)
  • 1 slice of honey whole wheat bread (or other bread)
  • Approx. 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Approx. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Seat salt & black pepper

Process:

  1. Rinse eggplant and cut into thick rounds. Salt thoroughly and set aside for about 30 minutes on the kitchen countertop. This will sweat out the vegetable’s natural bitterness. This doesn’t bother everyone, so feel free to take this step as being optional. However, if you do decide to salt and sweat the eggplant, be sure to rinse them thoroughly after the 30 minutes are up to remove the bitter juice and excess salt prior to cutting them in step 3.
  2. Preheat oven to 365 degrees F
  3. Cut eggplant rounds into approx. 1-inch chunks and cook in olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the minced garlic. You may need to do this in two or three batches depending on the size of your eggplant and pan. Try to have as much contact with the bottom of the pan as possible to allow the eggplant to brown nicely. Don’t add too much extra olive oil- stir-fry it (sort of) using just a bit of oil.
  4. Once cooked to where the eggplant is nicely browned but not mushy (it’s a fine line, I’m afraid!), divide evenly amoung ramekins
  5. Take the pesto and divide evenly (you can make your own or use store-bought- I used Whole Foods’ bulk basil pesto) using a spoon to spread over the eggplant in the ramekins. This can be a rather thin layer, or thicker- whichever you prefer!
  6. Divide the tomatoes- juice and all- evenly amoung the ramekins. If the juice seems too liquid, drain out a bit of it first before putting the tomatoes into the ramekins.
  7. Place the fresh tomato slices over the canned tomato chunks in the ramekins to where they are laying flat.
  8. Going carefully with a spoon, spoon on the ricotta cheese and divide evenly amoung the ramekins, spreading it across like icing to where it reaches just below the top of the ramekin and is evenly spread. This quantity will vary based on how much you have filled your ramekins. However, I wouldn’t suggest going over an inch in thickness, or the ricotta taste will overpower the other ingredients.
  9. Cut the bread slice (crusts and all) into large squares and place in blender. Blend into breadcrumbs, then distribute breadcrumbs evenly over the ramekins.
  10. Sprinkle on parmesan, salt, and pepper; drizzle over a frew drops of oil.
  11. Place ramekins on a cookie/baking sheet to avoid spills or overflow.
  12. Place in oven on top rack to bake for approx. 8-10 minutes, until the tops begin to brown. If they do not seem heated enough, move then to the bottom shelf on 350 degree heat for an additional 4-5 minutes. If the mixture is toppling over the sides and fizzing, then they’re ready to come out!

The garlic added quite a bit of flavour so feel free to go lighter on it- but my mother has told me it’s incredibly healthy, so I’m trying to sneak it in wherever possible! In any case, this is a hearty entree for vegetarians and a good, warm, dish to have on a cold day.

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