Spring has arrived at last, the trees are full of leaves again and the days are getting longer. Local farmer’s markets are just starting up again and though its still early in the season, the first summer vegetables are starting to appear. Deep red tomatoes, golden yellow squash, dark green zucchini, and violet eggplant are some of my favorites and the sight of them has me craving the classic French summer dish ratatouille.
A rustic country dish that originated in Provence, it can be simmered on the stove top for a stew-like texture, or baked in the oven to caramelize the vegetables, topped with shredded Gruyere to add a rich, nutty flavor. Thinly slicing the vegetables lets their flavors combine, complimenting each other and absorbing the aromatic Herbs de Provence and fresh garlic.
Savory and versatile, serve it as a main dish with a salad of fresh greens, a crusty baguette and sea-salted butter; or as a side dish it makes a great addition to a backyard barbecue, and is delightful even when served chilled at a picnic!
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 large eggplant, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, medium sliced
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup shredded gruyère cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried Herbs de Provence
2 teaspoon fresh thyme (reserve a few additional springs to place on top while baking and for garnish
sea salt (I used Les Salines de Guérande)
cracked black pepper
Fresh baguette or your favorite crusty bread
Preheat oven to 325’F/150’C
Thinly slice the zucchini, squash, eggplant, and tomatoes with a knife or mandolin slicer. Add half of the olive oil to the bottom of your baking dish along with half of the garlic and stir. Carefully arrange half of the vegetables, alternating them in this order: eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomato, repeating until the bottom of the dish is covered. Drizzle with olive oil, half of the gruyère, and sprinkle with Herbs de Provence, sea salt, black pepper. Arrange a second layer just as the first, dressing the top again with cheese and herbs, and bake for one hour uncovered, allowing crisp edges to form. Cool slightly and serve with crisp salad and a warm baguette!