The record-breaking hot weather we’ve been having here in Michigan is making me feel like it’s summer and brought to mind this very summery dish. Aubergine is French for eggplant. This dish is a French take on baked eggplant that I used to make frequently when we lived in West Africa, as eggplant was quite plentiful. It’s a pretty dish as well as a great accompaniment to simple brown rice or whole wheat couscous. Most of the work in this dish is the assembly so I broke it down into steps that follow the list of ingredients. To make a meal for 4-5 people you will need:
- 1 large eggplant (10 in. long, of the fat variety, not the skinny ones) or about 3 small (4″ long) eggplants.
- 6 Roma tomatoes, sliced vertically about 1/8″ thick (use a very sharp serrated knife)
- 1 14-oz. can of black olives, sliced into rings
- 12 cloves garlic, sliced very thinly
- 1 1/2 Tbs. Italian seasoning
- Salt to taste
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 med. onions, sliced into thin rings
Start by cutting the eggplant in half vertically and if it’s a big one, in thirds crosswise. If they are small, just cut in half vertically. Take each piece and place skin side up on a cutting board and start about 1/4″ from one end and slice it through to the other end, making slits about 3/8″ apart with a sharp knife. It should look like this when you are done:
Arrange eggplant in a baking dish. Then take your tomato slices and insert them into the eggplant “fans” , 1 slice in each slit. Press the tomato right in to the back of the slit, but don’t split the eggplant. It will then look like this:
You want your dish to be pretty firmly packed with eggplant/tomato fans as they will get soft and shrink in baking.But don’t try multiple layers. Then take your olives and garlic slices and sprinkle over the eggplant. Tuck in the bay leaves and salt the whole shebang. It will look something like this:
Then separate your onion rings and top the whole dish with them, sprinkle with the Italian seasoning and a bit more salt, and drizzle with the olive oil. As a variation, you can put 1/2 the onions and garlic on a layer in the bottom of the pan with a bit of olive oil, before adding the eggplant, and the other 1/2 on top.
Cover the pan tightly with a lid, or parchment paper and aluminum foil, and bake at 425 degrees F. until eggplant is very soft and onions start to caramelize. Takes about 1 1/2 hrs. As you can see in the following picture, as it heats, a lot of liquid will be released by the eggplant and tomatoes.