I will say that the hardest part of this dish was NOT the actually cooking but rather finding a proper name to call it.
Is it a casserole? Technically, yes. But casserole isn’t very sexy. For a moment I thought of calling it a “bake.” However, every time I hear the word “bake” I envision chicken breasts smothered in cream of mushroom soup and topped with breadcrumbs. “Chicken and Mushroom Bake.”
No. This is definitely not a bake. What about timbale? Does it have it be round? I baked this in a rectangular glass dish. What even is a timbale? Moving on.
Gratin! Gratin seemed like a more appropriate and definitely sexier word to describe this dish. But when thinking of gratin my mind wanders to ideas of heavy cream and cheese. This has no cream and a light sprinkling pecorino romano. Is this misleading I ponder.
I actually looked up the definition of gratin and technically gratin means anything that is browned with cheese and/or breadcrumbs on top. We’re good to go!
So I present to you eggplant, yellow squash, tomato and millet gratin.
One issue that I always face when using eggplant is how to cook it without using a ton of oil. Eggplant is a sponge. You can sauté eggplant in pan and start with two tablespoons of oil and then before you know it you’ve added another cup and a half and the pan will still be dry.
To combat this fatty issue, I lightly brush the slices of eggplant with olive oil and then grill them on both sides before layering them in the gratin. This way, the eggplant doesn’t go in raw and has a nice char on the outside that adds a smoky flavor. And it’s not soaked in oil.
Next let’s talk millet. The reason I decided to use millet in this recipe is because I had a container of leftovers in my fridge. Almost any grain would work well in this gratin. I would recommend any sort of rice, bulgur, quinoa or even couscous. The best part is the grains get super crispy and brown on the bottom of dish and at the same time soak up all the juices from the vegetables. It’s great way to repurpose any grains that you have leftover for the night before (or even from Chinese takeout).
It’s a perfect dish to make in the summer to use all of your garden’s (or farmer’s market or grocery store’s) bounty. You also combine your starch and vegetable in one dish so less time spent cooking and cleaning up for you. It’s beautiful, vibrant and easy.
Most importantly delicious and healthy.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, finely diced
- 2 cups cooked millet (or grain of your choice)
- 1 tbsp chopped basil
- 1 tbsp chopped thyme
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 2 Chinese eggplant, sliced into ½" thick rounds
- 1 large yellow squash, sliced into ⅓" thick rounds
- 4 large tomatoes, sliced
- 2 oz pecorino romano, finely grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- non-stick cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Cook the shallot in 1 tsp of olive oil until softened.
- Mix the miller together with the shallot, basil, thyme and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Lightly brush the slices of eggplant with 2 tsp of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high until slightly charred on both sides. The eggplant does not have to be cooked through.
- Spray the baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Put the millet mixture in the bottom of the dish. Make sure that it's packed together.
- Lay the slices of yellow squash over the millet. Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with ⅓ of grated pecorino Romano.
- Next lay down the slices of grilled eggplant. Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with ⅓ of the grated pecorino Romano.
- Last lay down the slices of tomatoes. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Top with remaining pecorino Romano.
- Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until fully cooked, golden brown and bubbly.
- Turn on the broiler to high and broil the top of the gratin for 2 minutes until deeply caramelized.
- Take it out of the oven and let it sit for at least 20 minutes before serving.