Julia Child is the queen of French cooking, if not the queen of all celebrity chefs. Julia discovered her love of French food when she and her husband Paul moved to France, and she enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She eventually launched her own informal school out of her kitchen called “The School of the Three Food Lovers.” Child authored numerous cookbooks throughout her life, including Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The French Chef Cookbook. The latter was based on recipes she shared with audiences in her first television show, The French Chef. Julia went on to host several additional TV programs, including Julia Child & Company, Julia Child & More Company, Baking with Julia, Cooking with Master Chefs, and Dinner at Julia’s. In 1981, Child founded The American Institute of Food and Wine in an effort to help others understand and appreciate quality food and wine pairings. Julia passed away in 2004, but her delicious recipes will forever live on.
This eggplant and zucchini gratin recipe from Julia Child is a true classic. It makes a great side dish or can be served as the main meal. The dish is colorful and is great for entertaining or bringing to an event when you are asked to contribute. It is also fairly easy, which can be a pleasant change of pace for fans of Julia Child recipes.
Eggplant dishes are usually heartier than other vegetable based recipes. Eggplant is a common substitute for meat dishes and adds some bulk to this gratin. Like zucchini, it has a distinctive taste that many consider less bland than many vegetables. It also pairs well with many seasonings. The vegetables are packed with vitamins and nutrients, but the dish still seems indulgent. It is a favorite of vegetarians and vegans, but also pleases meat eaters as a side dish. Of all the eggplant dishes out there, this is one of the most interesting and elevates simple ingredients to something special.
This tasty dish is made even better with a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence or a similar spice mix. It provides a distinctly French flair without creating a traditionally French dish, filled with heavy sauces or creams.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large or 2 medium eggplants
- 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 medium zucchini, about 1 pound total
- 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, about 1 pound total
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup or so fresh bread crumbs, not too finely ground
- 1/3 cup or so freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- For herbs de Provence substitute the following mixture:
- 2 tsp each dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp savory
- 1/4 tsp dried rosemary and
- 1/4 tsp mint
- 1/8 tsp fennel seeds
- 1/8 tsp dried sage
- Arrange the rack on the lower-middle level of the oven and preheat to 400. Smear a baking sheet generously with 1/3 cup of the olive oil. Trim off ends of eggplant and slice on the diagonal into ovals 1/2" thick. One at a time, lay the slices on the sheet, press to
- coat lightly with oil and turn them over. Arrange the slices, oiled side up, in a single layer and sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and herbs de Provence.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until the eggplant slices are soft and somewhat shriveled; allow to cool briefly. Leave the oven on if you will be baking the gratin right away. Meanwhile, trim the ends off the zucchini and cut lengthwise into slices no more than 1/4" thick. Salt the zucchini and let it sit for about 15 minutes then wipe the salt & moisture off - otherwise your casserole can be too watery. Core the tomatoes and cut into slices 1/4" thick. Spread out the slices and sprinkle them lightly with 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper.
- Film baking dish well with 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle a teaspoon of the dried herbs all over the bottom. Lay one or two eggplant slices, lengthwise, against a narrow side of the dish.
- Arrange a long slice or two of zucchini in from of the eggplant, then place 2 or 3 tomato slices in front of the zucchini. Repeat until the pan is full of alternating rows of eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Arrange each new row of slices so the colorful top edges of the previous row are still visible.
- Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan and teaspoon of herbes de Provence. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, then toss and rub it in with your fingers to coat the crumbs but keep them loose.
- Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the vegetables and drizzle remaining oil over all.
- Place dish in center of oven and bake for 40 minutes until vegetables are soft, the juices are bubbling, and the top is a deep golden brown. If the crumbs need more browning you can stick them under the broiler for a few moments.
Check out these Julia Child books:
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