Eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin is a layered vegetable casserole highlighting fresh summer vegetables. It makes a tasty vegetarian main course or a delicious side dish. A gratin is a baked dish lightly browned with a crust of breadcrumbs and cheese. The natural sweetness of the vegetables is balanced by the savory cheese. This recipe is inspired by the book The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn. It is June’s read for my online Foodie Book Club. If you are here just for the recipe, use the “jump to recipe” button at the top of this post.
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I discovered eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin in my recipe book Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. I love how these two masters of French cuisine compare their recipes and cooking techniques throughout the book. If you’re gluten-free not to worry. You can use gluten-free bread crumbs in the topping for this recipe. I usually make my own gluten-free bread crumbs by simply finely dicing a few slices of my favorite gluten-free bread. Or do quick pulse in the food processor.
Late in the summer, many gardens are bursting with eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes. This is a great dish to use them up in. Eggplants are also known as aubergines. This dish is seasoned simply with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. It is topped with a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and herbes de Provence. Herbes de Provence is a mix of dried herbs typical of the South of France. The blend I used contains chervil, basil, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, savory, thyme, parsley, garlic and lavender. It’s quite tasty sprinkled on roasted chicken or can be used in French vinaigrette dressing as well.
The method for making this dish is fairly simple. The vegetables are sliced and layered in a baking dish seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and herbes de Provence. The dish is topped with the bread crumb mixture and then baked. This eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin is very flavorful and satisfying. It makes a delicious side dish or vegetarian main course. The combination of fresh vegetables pair beautifully.
Come for the recipes, stay for the book discussion
Selecting a recipe inspired by a war-torn era was not an easy choice. Good food was scarce and many people suffered from the lack of basic means. Not to even mention the horrors of war and depravity so many endured. In the end, I selected this French recipe for eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin because most of the novel takes place in France. The recipe also uses simple in-season vegetables. A common approach to French cuisine.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite book genres. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is a captivating novel about two women. One a spy in France during World War I. The other an American socialite, unwed and pregnant searching for her cousin gone missing during World War II. Their unlikely stories cross after the war and so begins an epic and thrilling journey.
The story unfolds going back and forth between the main characters and different time periods between the wars. We get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each woman as well as the pain they have each endured. Charlie is young, rebellious and faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Charlie’s mother brings her from New York to Europe for an abortion. Charlie rebels and begins a quest to find her cousin Rose who disappeared during World War II. She wants to know the truth about what happened to her and seeks solace in her loving memories of them as children. She meets Eve and Finn (a soon to be love interest) as she begins her quest. Eve is a former spy and heroin of the famed Alice Network. (The real life Alice Network was established by Louise de Bettignies, a French secret agent who spied on the Germans for the British during World War I. She operated under the pseudonym of Alice Dubois.) Eve’s story is compelling. She is harsh, lost and beaten down by the effects of the war as a former spy. We soon discover that Rose’s disappearance is linked to Eve’s arch enemy Rene during the war. Eve is now on a quest to help Charlie track down Rose and hopefully Rene as well for revenge. This book is a real page turner. The more I learned about Eve’s past during the war, the more I had to read on. These characters show strength and courage. Charlie’s quest brings these characters together. It helps them find closure and discover a new purpose. I found myself googling maps of France following their progress.
I leave you with these questions to ponder and answer in the comments below.
*spoiler alert – warning do not read on if you do not want any spoilers*
- Captain Cameron and Finn Kilgore’s characters parallel each other in many ways. For example, they are both Scotsmen and ex-soldiers. How are they similar? How are they different? Discuss Finn’s choices in the pursuit of love vs the captain’s.
- Were you surprised by the eventual fate of Rose, Charlie’s cousin?
- We learn that both Eve and Charlie are faced with unplanned pregnancies. They make very different decisions regarding how to handle their situations. Both are faced with the stigma of being an unwed mother. Both face double standards. Have things changed much since 1914 and 1947? Discuss their reasons why they made their decisions.
- Were you aware of the vital role women spies made in providing information to the allies during World War I?
I hope you enjoy this recipe for eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin as well as the book The Alice Network. I’d love to hear your thoughts about either below.
If you’re active on Instagram, please give me a follow at @pineneedlesinmysalad. I’d love to hear from you. If you make any of my recipes, use #pineneedlesinmysalad and share your photo.
Join me next time by reading Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. Sold on a Monday is a riveting story with unforeseen twists at every turn. This historical novel is set in the 1930’s, in the wake of the Great Depression. It highlights difficult and desperate times. As the story unfolds, we learn the fate of two children caught in the consequences of their caregiver’s desperate choices. You won’t be able to put this book down.
Eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin is a layered vegetable casserole highlighting fresh summer vegetables. It makes a tasty vegetarian main course or a delicious side dish.
- extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup, plus a couple tsp
- 1 large or 2 medium sized eggplants 1/2 inch round slices
- 2 medium sized zucchinis 1/4 inch lengthwise slices
- 2 large ripe tomatoes 1/4 inch slices
- 1 1/2 tsp herbes de Provence divided
- 1 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt divided
- 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs not too finely ground
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp herbes de Provence
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Brush the jelly roll pan generously with about 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
Trim the ends off the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into ovals about 1/2 inch thick. Eggplant slices will be thicker than the zucchini and tomatoes. Lay the eggplant out on the jelly roll pan. Lightly brush or drizzle a little more olive oil on top of the slices. Sprinkle the eggplant with 1/2 tsp each of sea salt and herbes de Provence.
Bake the eggplant first for about 10 minutes or just until the edges start to curl. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool slightly.
Trim the ends off the zucchini and cut 1/4 inch lengthwise slices. Spread out the zucchini slices on a tray. Do the same with the tomatoes (1/4 inch slices).
Lightly sprinkle the zucchini and tomato slices with 1/2 tsp sea salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper.
Combine the gratin topping mixture together in a small bowl (breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp herbes de Provence.
Brush 2 tsp olive oil all over the casserole dish. Sprinkle the bottom of the dish with 1 tsp of herbes de Provence seasoning.
Begin layering the vegetables. Start with one or two eggplant slices, then zucchini in front of the eggplant, then one or two slices of tomato in front. Layer them lengthwise against the narrow side of the dish. Continue layering. Prop the layers up on their sides a little as you go until all the vegetables are layered and nestled in.
Top the layered vegetables with the gratin topping.
Bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until the vegetables soften, juices bubble along the edges and the top turns a golden brown. Serve hot or at room temperature.
You can layer and assemble the gratin ahead of time. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for several hours before baking.
Did you enjoy this eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin? I’d love to hear your experience. Leave me a comment at https://www.pineneedlesinmysalad.com/eggplant-zucchini-tomato-gratin