Eggplant and Tomato Bake

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I have never met an eggplant that I didn’t like and frankly cannot understand when someone tells me they don’t eat eggplants. They can be prepared so many ways! And they are beautiful. So when I saw this recipe for Tian d’Aubergines in last week’s Chicago Tribune I had to try it. Tomatoes are at their most gorgeous now and I was able to pick up some luscious ripe ones at my local market. The only thing I changed from the original recipe was to add garlic because who makes eggplant without garlic?? I also layered my herbs and salt and pepper because – well, layering flavors is just better. This dish can be eaten hot, room temperature or cold. I am serving it at room temperature tonight with some lamb chops and a lovely rosé from Provence. I imagine that leftovers will be eaten with just some crusty bread to soak up all of the delicious liquid and a bright green salad. I did buy some Greek cheese the other day so I might have some sliced on the side. This is one of those wonderfully simple and versatile dishes like a good ratatouille. I was skeptical when I read that it baked for two hours, but the final result is deliciously unctuous so don’t skimp on the baking time.

Eggplant and Tomato Bake from Monique Hanson

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Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

Lots of fresh thyme leaves

3 medium eggplants

4 large ripe tomatoes

5 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

8 Tablespoons EVOO plus more for drizzling

Kosher or sea salt to taste and fresh ground black pepper or Aleppo pepper if you have it

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly drizzle oil on the bottom of a heavy rectangular baking dish (mine was 9.5 by 13) large enough to hold everything very snugly (there will be some shrinkage when it bakes). Place the baking dish on a pan since there might be a little spillage when it bakes.
  2. Layer the onions and garlic over the bottom of the pan and sprinkle with lots of fresh thyme leaves, a sprinkling of salt and some pepper.
  3. Cut off both ends of the eggplants and then slice almost all of the way through but not entirely at 1/2 inch intervals. Slice your tomatoes and nestle one slice between the cuts in the eggplant.
  4. Place the stuffed eggplants in the baking pan over the onion and garlic. Don’t worry if you have to squish things a little to force them in. They will bake down. Sprinkle with more thyme, salt and pepper.
  5. In a small bowl, make the vinaigrette. Mix well and drizzle it over the eggplant. Drizzle a little more EVOO and sprinkle a little more salt.
  6. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Then cover and bake for another hour until the eggplant is cooked through, the house smells amazing and the liquid is bubbling up in the baking dish. Serve at any temperature that you choose.

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