Eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin is a layered vegetable casserole highlighting fresh summer vegetables. It makes a tasty vegetarian main course or a delicious side dish. A gratin is a baked dish lightly browned with a crust of breadcrumbs and cheese. The natural sweetness of the vegetables is balanced by the savory cheese. If you are transitioning to a plant-based diet, this is a great recipe to try. I provide substitutions for you below. This recipe is inspired by the book The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn. It is June’s read for my online Foodie Book Club. If you are here just for the recipe, use the “jump to recipe” button at the top of this post.
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I discovered eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin in my recipe book Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. I love how these two masters of French cuisine compare their recipes and cooking techniques throughout the book. If you’re gluten-free not to worry. You can use gluten-free bread crumbs in the topping for this recipe. I usually make my own gluten-free bread crumbs by simply finely dicing a few slices of my favorite gluten-free bread. Or do quick pulse in the food processor. If you are plant-based, you can substitute the Parmesan cheese in the topping in this recipe with Vegan Parmesan cheese which is a blend of nutritional yeast seasoning, cashews, sea salt and garlic powder. See the notes in the recipe.
Are you switching to meatless Mondays or more plant-based alternatives? This is a great hearty and warm dish you’ll love. To make this plant-based, you’ll need to make two substitutions. The first is to use a dairy-free and egg-free bread to make your bread crumbs. The second is to substitute the Parmesan cheese in the recipe with Vegan Parmesan cheese. Vegan Parmesan cheese is a blend of nutritional yeast seasoning, cashews, sea salt and garlic powder. It’s super easy to make and makes a great topping on all kinds of veggies. To make it, refer to the notes section in the recipe below.
Late in the summer, many gardens are bursting with eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes. This is a great dish to use them up in. Eggplants are also known as aubergines. This dish is seasoned simply with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. It is topped with a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and herbes de Provence. Herbes de Provence is a mix of dried herbs typical of the South of France. The blend I used contains chervil, basil, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, savory, thyme, parsley, garlic and lavender. It’s quite tasty sprinkled on roasted chicken or can be used in French vinaigrette dressing as well.
The method for making this dish is fairly simple. The vegetables are sliced and layered in a baking dish seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and herbes de Provence. The dish is topped with the bread crumb mixture and then baked. This eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin is very flavorful and satisfying. It makes a delicious side dish or vegetarian main course. The combination of fresh vegetables pair beautifully.
Come for the recipes, stay for the book discussion
Selecting a recipe inspired by a war-torn era was not an easy choice. Good food was scarce and many people suffered from the lack of basic means. Not to even mention the horrors of war and depravity so many endured. In the end, I selected this French recipe for eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin because most of the novel takes place in France. The recipe also uses simple in-season vegetables. A common approach to French cuisine.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite book genres. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn is a captivating novel about two women. One a spy in France during World War I. The other an American socialite, unwed and pregnant searching for her cousin gone missing during World War II. Their unlikely stories cross after the war and so begins an epic and thrilling journey.
The story unfolds going back and forth between the main characters and different time periods between the wars. We get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each woman as well as the pain they have each endured. Charlie is young, rebellious and faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Charlie’s mother brings her from New York to Europe for an abortion. Charlie rebels and begins a quest to find her cousin Rose who disappeared during World War II. She wants to know the truth about what happened to her and seeks solace in her loving memories of them as children. She meets Eve and Finn (a soon to be love interest) as she begins her quest. Eve is a former spy and heroin of the famed Alice Network. (The real life Alice Network was established by Louise de Bettignies, a French secret agent who spied on the Germans for the British during World War I. She operated under the pseudonym of Alice Dubois.) Eve’s story is compelling. She is harsh, lost and beaten down by the effects of the war as a former spy. We soon discover that Rose’s disappearance is linked to Eve’s arch enemy Rene during the war. Eve is now on a quest to help Charlie track down Rose and hopefully Rene as well for revenge. This book is a real page turner. The more I learned about Eve’s past during the war, the more I had to read on. These characters show strength and courage. Charlie’s quest brings these characters together. It helps them find closure and discover a new purpose. I found myself googling maps of France following their progress.
I leave you with these questions to ponder and answer in the comments below.
*spoiler alert – warning do not read on if you do not want any spoilers*
- Captain Cameron and Finn Kilgore’s characters parallel each other in many ways. For example, they are both Scotsmen and ex-soldiers. How are they similar? How are they different? Discuss Finn’s choices in the pursuit of love vs the captain’s.
- Were you surprised by the eventual fate of Rose, Charlie’s cousin?
- We learn that both Eve and Charlie are faced with unplanned pregnancies. They make very different decisions regarding how to handle their situations. Both are faced with the stigma of being an unwed mother. Both face double standards. Have things changed much since 1914 and 1947? Discuss their reasons why they made their decisions.
- Were you aware of the vital role women spies made in providing information to the allies during World War I?
I hope you enjoy this recipe for eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin as well as the book The Alice Network. I’d love to hear your thoughts about either below.
If you make any of my recipes, use #northwestspoon and share your photo.
Join me next time by reading Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. Sold on a Monday is a riveting story with unforeseen twists at every turn. This historical novel is set in the 1930’s, in the wake of the Great Depression. It highlights difficult and desperate times. As the story unfolds, we learn the fate of two children caught in the consequences of their caregiver’s desperate choices. You won’t be able to put this book down.
Eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin
- Serves 4
- Prep 20 mins
- Cook 50 mins
Eggplant, zucchini and tomato gratin is a layered vegetable casserole highlighting fresh summer vegetables. It makes a tasty vegetarian main course or a delicious side dish.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 medium zucchini
- 3-4 ripe tomatoes
- 1 tbsp herbes de Provence
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
**Bread crumb topping**
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 F.
- Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with a little olive oil.
- Trim the ends off the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into ovals about 1/2 inch thick. Lightly coat the slices with olive oil (both sides). Then sprinkle with fine sea salt. Arrange the slices on the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant begins to soften and shrivel. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.
- Trim the ends off the zucchini. Slice lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Sprinkle the zucchini and tomatoes with a small amount of sea salt and pepper.
- Lightly coat/grease the casserole/gratin dish with some of the olive oil.
- The next step is layering all the vegetables. Start with eggplant, then zucchini, then tomato laying the slices lengthwise against the narrow of the casserole dish. Continue down the casserole dish eggplant, zucchini, tomato slightly overlapping each other until you get to the end. You may need to adjust the layers slightly tucking the vegetables in so you can get more into the dish. Top the vegetables with the herbes de Provence.
- In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Top the vegetables with the bread crumb mixture. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top.
- Bake in the center of the oven 35 – 40 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the juices are bubbling. The topping should be a golden brown. Serve hot.
· Use a large rimmed baking sheet and a large oven safe casserole, lasagna or gratin dish.