Gratin d'Aix En Provence
Time and time again throughout this book, you will find I use the term stir-fry for cooking fresh vegetables. This is a technique that has entered modern French cookery from Oriental cuisine, where vegetables are cooked quickly in a little oil, just to the point where they are no longer raw but still retain their crispy texture, all their flavor, and all their vitamins. It is a quick and easy technique to perfect -- the important thing is to keep stirring so the vegetables are cooked evenly, and to slice vegetables evenly and finely and put them in the pan in the order of the length of time they take to cook. (For example, you would put carrots in before mushrooms.)
This dish is inspired by the colors and flavors of Provence. I like to think that it would have been enjoyed by the artist Paul Cezanne, who was born in Aix, and whose sister, Rose, married my ancestor Maxime Conil.
8 oz. (225 g) new potatoes, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 large eggplants (aubergines),
thinly sliced, soaked in cold water
for 30 minutes, drained, and patted dry
4 zucchini (courgettes), thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
8 oz. (225 g) firm goats cheese, crumbled
12 black olives, pitted and chopped
2 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 oz. (60 g) dried whole-wheat (wholemeal) breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh basil and thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Boil the potatoes and fennel separately until just tender. Refresh in cold water, drain, pat dry. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Heat a little olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and stir-fry the onion for 2 minutes, then add the fennel, eggplants, and zucchini, and fry for a further 3 minutes. Season to taste.
In a large, greased earthenware dish, place a layer each of half the potatoes, half the vegetable mixture, then half the tomatoes. Sprinkle with half the goat's cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and thyme. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Top with the breadcrumbs and drizzle a little olive oil over the top.
Bake in the preheated oven at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden and sizzling. Serve immediately.
The Flavors of France:
Fabulous Vegetarian Cuisine for Every Occasion
By Jean Conil and Fay Franklin
Photography by Andrew Elton
Harper Collins Publishers
190 recipes; 84 full-color photographs
Recipe reprinted by permission.
French Vegetarian Feast
Mexican Vegetarian Feast
This page created December 1998; modified November 2006
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