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  • Writer's pictureLeigh

Veggies for Dinner: Baked Summer Vegetable Medley

This is a great dish for summer: light, savory, and full of good-for-you vegetables. You can bake it and serve it as a side dish with a variety of meats, or you can increase the cheese and serve it as a main dish, with or without pasta on the side (I vote with). The medley is great with cornbread alongside, and you can, later in the week, turn the leftover medley into a new dish by adding some chopped, cooked meat, sprinkling on some mozzarella cheese, and baking the whole thing again until warm and the cheese is bubbly. The dish has been around in various forms for ages. Among others, the French, Greeks, Syrians, Spanish, Italians, and my mom, who originally came from Alabama but was transplanted Virginia, all had their versions. The medley I'm offering you is the one most similar to my mom's. Her philosophy was "use what you have and make do." I'm good with that. This recipe can be as fancy or as simple as you wish. Even in it's simplest form, it's incredibly good. The flavors of the individual vegetables blend together for a taste that far surpasses any one vegetable (hmm, there may be a metaphor here for our country). A little Parmesan cheese adds a nutty saltiness, and some breadcrumbs on top of the medley add a contrasting, crunchy texture to the soft vegetables underneath. Although I'm offering you a recipe, keep in mind that the recipe is flexible and that you can, as my mom did, "use what you have and make do."

Baked Summer Vegetable Medley -- Serves 6+

3 medium Japanese/Chinese eggplant, sliced into rounds (the long, skinny eggplants)

3 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds

1 medium onion, chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped

2-3 small/medium bell peppers, chopped (preferably red, orange, yellow, or a mixture)

Small handful of chopped or torn fresh oregano (or use some dried)

2 teaspoons of Italian herbs (dried)

1/2 teaspoon of salt, divided

Pepper to suit

1/2 - 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, divided

14-16-ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice

1/2 cup of seasoned Panko breadcrumbs

Fresh parsley and oregano to garnish

In a large casserole dish (3-quarts or so) that you have coated with non-stick cooking spray, layer the eggplant, zucchini, and half the onions. Sprinkle on half of the garlic and 2 tablespoons or so of the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on a little salt and pepper. Add a layer of the chopped bell peppers and the remaining onions and garlic. Sprinkle on the Italian herbs. Pour the can of diced tomatoes evenly over the layer of peppers, onions, and garlic. Sprinkle on the remaining salt and pepper, and the remaining cheese. Sprinkle on the oregano and with a small spoon, poke it into the veggies, so it's submerged. Sprinkle on the Panko. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the medley for 50-60 minutes or until the top is golden and the vegetables have softened. Let the medley cool for at least 15 minutes before serving it. Sprinkle on some fresh parsley leaves and maybe some oregano leaves, if you have any.

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