Char-Baked Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant
The vegetables, sliced very thin, stacked, and doused in olive oil, are roasted in a hot oven until they collapse; their juices get concentrated, and the whole becomes an alluring vegetable dish, more attractive than kids might fi nd vegetables to be on their own. Critical to the success of this dish is to bake it way longer than you expect and keep pushing down the mixture with a spatula to release the moisture. By the time it is done, the vegetables will be thoroughly caramelized, soft and luscious, and the dish will be easy to cut into wedges or squares. This is superb as a side dish for fi sh and chicken or as the centerpiece of a vegetarian meal.
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 5 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small eggplant, about 6 inches long, thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 zucchini, about 5 inches long, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pour some of the olive oil to cover the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch rectangular or 12-inch oval baking dish. Layer in half of the onion slices and one third of the tomatoes. Generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a layer of eggplant and sprinkle on more salt. Add another third of the tomatoes, the zucchini, garlic, thyme, and the remaining onions. Top with the remaining tomatoes. Press down on the mixture with your hands.
- Pour over the remaining olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Don’t worry. The vegetables will be piled high but collapse as they cook.)
- Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. After 45 minutes, press the mixture down firmly with a spatula. The vegetables should be reduced in height, and should be brownish black and caramelized, almost charred in places. Return to the oven to finish roasting. Let cool for at least 10 minutes, so the mixture can solidify a bit. Cut into squares and serve.