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Summer's bounty of tomatoes, eggplant, and onions layered with melted mozzarella creates a wonderful side dish. Le Tian can be prepared ahead and refrigerated then go straight from the oven to the table. For picnics, wrap it well in heavy-duty aluminum foil right from the oven and carry it nestled snugly in the bottom of a basket along with other warm foods.
MAKES 8 SERVINGS
4 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise
3 small (about 2 pounds) eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
4 medium-size (about 1-3/4 pounds) onions, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
6 medium-size (about 2 pounds) tomatoes, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
A teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce package mozzarella, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 1 2 by 9-inch oval baking dish. In the bottom of the baking dish, scatter the garlic halves. Starting at one side of the dish, create 3 lengthwise rows of vegetables that are standing on edge, alternating the slices of eggplant, onion, and tomato, until the dish is full. Brush the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle with the salt.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the eggplant is very tender. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and randomly insert the cheese slices into the vegetable rows. Brush with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 12 to 1 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts.
Cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Top with the thyme sprigs, if desired.
Copyright 1998 by The Hearst Corporation