I’m not a vegetarian, but I make it a point to go meatless at least one night a week. It’s a great way to force yourself out of that confining protein-starch-veggie template that lords over the dinner menu and probably has us eating more than our fair share of meat. It also guarantees you enjoy new flavor combinations since vegetarian cooking so often relies on fresh herbs and aromatic vegetables to impart that umami punch.
One of my favorite veg-centric dishes is a savory vegetable gratin, a layered ‘veggie bake’ if you will that’s also referred to as a tian. While it’s packed with healthy fresh vegetables, it’s got a gooey layer of melted Gruyere on top, and a layer of tender potatoes and onions on the bottom, both of which give it main course heft. Yum.
There are lots of versions of this traditional Provencal dish, but few hard and fast rules. Use whatever vegetables move you. The bottom line is to cut them in a way that helps them each cook through within the same amount of time. This pretty and delicious dish goes great with a green salad, a bowl of hardy soup and a fresh baguette with some indulgent rosemary butter.
Here’s how to prepare the vegetable gratin:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut in half then sliced thin crosswise
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large, or two medium, Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 sweet potato, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 zucchini, sliced ¼ inch thick
2 cups sliced baby ‘bella mushrooms, or mushrooms of your choice
3 medium tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil to medium high and add onions. Sauté for about five minutes until they begin to soften. Add garlic and continue sautéing for one minute more. Remove pan from heat.
Spray a 9x12x2 pan with cooking spray. In the bottom of pan, add sautéed onions and garlic and distribute evenly. Next, layer vegetables beginning with Yukon Gold potatoes. Add sweet potatoes, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes, seasoning each layer with a little salt and pepper.
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle rosemary over tomatoes, cover with grated cheese and bake for another 30 minutes.
Remove from oven!
Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.