Eggplant and tomato are combined with a smoky, spicy tomato sauce and baked until tender and sweet. This is a celebration of the end of summer and the most beautiful bounty straight from the garden.
Chris’s parents must have been surprised when he brought me home for dinner the first time – here was their omnivorous, bacon-loving son bringing home a hippy-dippy gluten free vegetarian. I know I was nervous, and mostly I was afraid of putting them out. When you are the ‘weird dietary needs girl’ you are always worried about causing people extra stress around meal times. But, Chris’s parents took it in their stride and cooked up a perfect dinner that everyone could enjoy. In the last two-plus years that Chris and I have been together we have enjoyed countless family dinners and every time Ruth (Chris’s mum) creates something new, exciting, and delicious to suit my funny tummy (as a trade I provide dessert offerings).
Ruth makes the most beautiful crustless quiches and zucchini and rice bake, but last time she tried a new recipe and it was one of my favourites yet. She started with three fat shiny obsidian eggplants, then topped them with a variety of summer sweet tomatoes – some from her own garden – and a gorgeous olive oil, verjuice, and tomato-based sauce. We sipped some beautiful white wine and watched the sun set over the mountainside as the whole lot baked away in the oven. Just before it finished cooking Ruth sprinkled the dish with pine nuts and feta and slid it back in so the feta could soften and the nuts could toast.
On a cool, late summer night we sat on their deck with our wine and shared dishes of Ruth’s perfectly baked eggplant dish along with slices of grilled sweet potato (and steak for the omnivores). It was a wonderful moment in time, and since that dinner I haven’t been able to get that eggplant dish out of my mind. My twist on the dish is a little different to Ruth’s divine summer night creation. I have spiced mine with paprika and sumac to highlight the smokiness of the eggplant, and swapped almonds for pine nuts (you could use either). Time in the oven transforms eggplants from a spongy odd vegetable into a silken and soft wonder. When you pair eggplants with their best friends tomato and garlic, magic happens. This dish is the definition of a late summer evening for me.
Summer Eggplant and Tomato Bake is the best ingredient for your next relaxed evening at home. You chop the eggplant, layer it in your dish with tomatoes, red onions and a tomato sauce, and then let the oven do the rest. It makes a great light meal when paired with a green salad, or you could serve it with a scoop of herbed quinoa (try this one) for a heartier evening meal. If you are cooking for a crowd, you will love this dish because you can easily double or triple the recipe and it’s so easy to make. Sometimes the simplest things: perfectly in-season vegetables; a glass of wine on a summer night; and time with family are the most nourishing to mind, body and soul.
Summer Eggplant and Tomato Bake
Gluten Free | Vegetarian | Serves 2 | Easily multiplied
Make it vegan: leave out feta from topping.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 small red onions
- 1 punnet (250 grams / 1/2 pound) cherry/grape tomatoes
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup verjuice (or dry white wine)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sumac
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 60 grams Greek feta, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
- For serving: basil, side salad, or grains.
- Preheat your oven to 180C (350F).
- Slice your eggplant into ~1cm (1/2 inch) slices. Peel red onions and chop into quarters.
- Whisk together tomato paste, verjuice (or wine), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, sumac, oregano, and garlic.
- In a small baking dish (mine was about 10 inches by 7 inches) place one layer of eggplant slices, tuck half the onion quarters in the gaps and sprinkle over half the tomatoes. Spoon half the sauce over this layer.
- Repeat with remaining eggplant, onion, tomatoes and sauce.
- Bake for two hours, checking occasionally for burning. 10 minutes before you remove the dish from the oven sprinkle feta and chopped onions over the top.
- Remove from oven and serve with a few sprigs of basil and a green salad.