Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

by Gena on May 15, 2011

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Hey guys! Hope the weekend treated you well. I spent a great four days with the boy, and now I’m gearing up for some power packing.

I loved your responses to my spinach burgers; they’re well worth making, and I’d love to hear about it if you try them! In the meantime, excited to share my first truly summery recipe of the summer: a vegan summer vegetable gratin with crispy eggplant and Daiya cheese.

As you may have noticed, when I’m either a) very busy, or b) away from M, I tend to revert to what I’ll call my “foundational” eating style. This means mostly raw food, lots of chia pudding, lots of nutrient dense salads, lots of blended salads, lots of wraps and spreads and sushi rolls and grain bowls. That’s about as complex as it ever gets. It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s how I like to eat, and as I mentioned in my post last week on staying healthy under deadlines, it’s important to stick to the tried-and-true.

Even so, I write a food blog. And cooking is one of my most cherished and lived-for activities. Nothing makes me happier than cooking a wonderful vegan meal, and I’m so excited to be settled in DC so that I can start making some truly blog-worthy meals for M and for me.

And for you guys, too.

The following gratin (or “gray-tun,” as my Dad would say), which M and I devoured on Thursday night, was the first non-nutrient dense salad or zucchini pasta dinner I’d had in a while. It was inspired by Kath and Matt’s summer squash gratin, which I made a note to make a long time ago, but I added breaded eggplant. It sounds complex, because it involves a lot of steps, but believe me when I say that it’s a very accessible and straightforward dinner: you just have to work piecemeal.

The key to the gratin turning out well is that you salt and pat dry your vegetables before you bake them: they’re all very watery, and it’s important to both season and dry them out with salt before you assemble the gratin, lest it end up a watery mess. Sounds annoying, and this technique is no friend to those on low-sodium diets, but if you consider that there’s no salty sauce in this recipe, and if you take care to serve it with a salad or sides that aren’t high in sodium, it’s nothing to worry about.

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Vegan Summer Vegetable Gratin (vegan, GF if you use brown rice bread crumbs, soy free)

Makes 6 pieces

2 small summer squashes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices on a slight diagonal
1 large eggplant, sliced vertically into 1/4 inch thin slices
1 cup almond or rice milk
1 cup whole wheat or brown rice bread crumbs (I love the brown rice ones)
2 tsps oregano
2 beefsteak tomatoes
1 1/2 cups daiya cheese
3 cups finely chopped fresh basil
Salt and Pepper

1) Sprinkle the eggplant and the tomatoes with a generous dose of salt and let them sit for about 30 minutes.

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2) While you do this, set oven to broiler, and sprinkle the squash slices with salt and pepper till nearly crispy (but still moist). When they’re done, set them aside. Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees.

3) Pat eggplant and tomatoes dry with some pressure, to ensure that they’re on the dry side. Mix the oregano into the bread crumbes in a wide bowl or on a plate. Dip your eggplant slices in the almond or rice milk, then dredge them in the bread crumbs and transfer to an oiled or parchment lined baking sheet.

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Also place tomatoes on an oiled or parchment lined baking sheet.

4) Place tomatoes and eggplant in the oven. After 15 minutes, flip the eggplant slices over. After about 20 or 25 minutes, check the tomatoes: if they’re soft and browning, they’re ready and you can remove them, leaving the eggplant in the oven. (If not, give them another 5-10). After 30-35 minutes, or when the eggplant is brown and getting crispy, it’s ready.

5) Mix Daiya and basil together in a bowl.

6) Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Layer 3-4 slices of the eggplant in a small casserole dish.

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Top with about 1/3 of the Daiya mixture.

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Top with the summer squash…

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…then the tomatoes.

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Top with another third of the Daiya mixture. Finally, layer 3-4 slices of the eggplant on top, and cover that with the remaining third of Daiya and basil.

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Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the Daiya is totally melted. The vegetables will be slightly crispy from the baking, the Daiya will be decadent and tangy, and your tastebuds will be over the moon. Promise.

What a nice way to celebrate early summer. And now that my finals are over, summer really is here—in spite of the slight upheaval that’s ahead of me.

What are you most excited to cook this summer? And what’s the first thing you tend to make when you’re in the mood to go above and beyond the usual?


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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Pure2raw twins May 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm

YUM! A perfect vegetable gratin!

your eats when you are busy sound similar to mine :) haha


FoodFeud May 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm

This looks totally stunning and exactly like something I’d love to eat..soon! Thanks for the recipe.
I can understand what you mean about bending yr eating habits a little bit around a boyfriend. When my bf and I first started going out cooking together was one of our favorite things to do – except his tastes were a little different from mine (more pasta heavy especially) but now that we live together I think we’ve both grown nicely into each other’s food habits. He’ll drink a smoothie in the morning with me now, and I’ll cook up tofu more often for him – while he still has his cereal supplements and sometimes I’ll forgo baking for just a big salad for myself.
I hope you and M work wonders in the kitchen together and I hope, Gena, that you are still able to eat your vibrant, nourishing fresh chia puddings or bowls of raw greens. I love both sides of it for you!


ste rhymes with tree May 15, 2011 at 8:37 pm


I use the salting technique to make “raw stir fries” (sounds better than “salt wilts”) I salt everything, let it wilt, and then give it a good rinse. A little sesame seed, cashew and ginger and its a delicious meal!

Also, I found out something I couldn’t wait to share! In addition to coconut aminos for a gf/soy free option, there’s both chickpea tamari and azuki tamari from the south river miso company! I haven’t tried them yet but


Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) May 15, 2011 at 8:38 pm

“This means mostly raw food, lots of chia pudding, lots of nutrient dense salads, lots of blended salads, lots of wraps and spreads and sushi rolls and grain bowls. That’s about as complex as it ever gets. “–

Omg that is so me! I just got done pre-drafting a post for tomorrow about eating and being on vacation (b/c I’m in Aruba right now) and am discussing that even though I like to check out local fare, I will not be eating any smoked pork ribs or fried fish. I will save the adventurous-ness for the local desserts :) And that fresh, raw, simply prepared is where it’s at for me.

And I love this gratin recipe! I’d almost call it a veggie lasanga, the way many raw-ish lasagnas are, i.e. no noodles, just veggies and perhaps some vegan cheeze.

Love the post and will be linking you back in the a.m.



Ruby June 6, 2011 at 8:21 am

so i attempted to make this and for some reason or another it just didn’t work out. the bread crumbs weren’t sticking, the tomatoes were cut to thin, i didn’t have a proper pan I think, to lay all this stuff out, anyhow i decided to throw the daiya on there, let it melt down and all though mushy, it tasted real good. Then i got this idea to throw everything in the cusinart and make a gooey sauce. WOW, this is amazing. I plan on throwing this on some buckwheat or quinoa. really nice flavors going on here. The brown rice bread was a nice treat as well. Thanks again Gena!!


BroccoliHut May 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm

This post makes me so excited for all the fresh produce this summer!


VeggieGirl May 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Perfect summer dish!


Lindsay Loves Veggies May 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm

This looks so amazing. I have almost too much of an obsession with Daiya. I bet a 4 day weekend with the boy was wonderful! No time at all and you’ll be moved down there and get to see him whenever you darn well please! :)


Suzanne Williams May 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Nothing better than some grilled veggies on the bbq in the summer. Yum, yum. Just got all our patio stuff up and running again.
Suzanne Williams


bitt May 15, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Mmm, I am looking forward to summer fresh eggplant! This looks great. I have a similar foundational diet although I do admittedly include more chocolate. I mean, it’s a superfood, right?


Melissa @ TryingToHeal May 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm

oh, that recipe looks amazing! i still need to try that kind of Cheeze.


Mama Pea May 16, 2011 at 1:24 am

You know who would love this? Me. Maybe I do want you to cook for me…


Emma (Namaste Everyday) May 16, 2011 at 4:04 am

I love this! It’s summery and light, but it also reminds me of a casserole – warm and comforting. aka the perfectly balanced meal! yet another wonderful concoction, Gena!


Hannah May 16, 2011 at 4:12 am

Thank you Gena! Now that I work full-time I cherish quick and nutritious meals, but sometimes on the weekend I want something to spend time pottering over in the kitchen. This looks just the ticket, except I’ve yet to find a good vegan cheeze here in Canberra :(


McKayla @ Green Groats May 16, 2011 at 7:22 am

Mmmm. This looks delicious! I love this kind of meal! Warm, crispy, and full of veggies.


Victoria (District Chocoholic) May 16, 2011 at 8:09 am

Oh Gena, this looks like such a delightful combination of delicious veggies. I recently learned out to properly cook eggplant and can’t get enough. My heart also aches for zucchini season to arrive…


tweal May 16, 2011 at 8:22 am

That looks amazing! Daiya cheese is really growing on me.

I’m not super excited about ‘cooking’ anything this summer, but I am stoked for watermelon season!


shannonmarie May 16, 2011 at 8:52 am

Very tasty. I know my daughter and I would love this one. Sounds like a good dish to bring to a family gathering. Thanks.

My diet tends to be boring lately, too, but it’s what I like best. Most of it is green.


Lia May 16, 2011 at 9:06 am

That looks goood! I like introducing my bf to yummy vegan foods since he generally is a fan, but doesn’t know how to put things together in the kitchen, so he sticks with what he knows and what is easily accessible (not always super healthy). My point: I’d love to show him this one :)

I sort of random question: where did you get certified for clinical nutrition?

Good luck with your move. I hope it goes as smoothly as a move can!


McKella May 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

I’m excited to play with raw foods from my dad’s garden this summer! I’ve wanted to experiment with raw food for awhile and I feel like summer’s the perfect time, because I don’t feel like cooking, I like cold foods in the summer and there’s tons of amazing produce around.


Whitney May 16, 2011 at 11:06 am

Holy-Mother-of-Yum. Can’t wait to try this! Three cheers for the end to a looong winter and the return of good local produce!!


Michelle | GOLD-HEARTED GIRL May 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

I’ve been looking for a recipe like this, thanks!!



Julia May 16, 2011 at 4:11 pm

This looks beautiful! Are all of these veggies in season yet? Whoaaaa! I’m so happy for you that everything is going well, and it’s great that M likes your vegan fare too! I’ll try this when it’s a little bit warmer weather out, but it is quite tempting!


Ela May 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Looks yummy. I’ve never had daiya, or brown rice crumbs, but love that this can be gf and vegan.

I’m so excited to be getting a dehydrator and am most looking forward to using it this summer!

Good luck packing.


Gena May 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Thanks, darlin. It is very vegan and very gluten free!


Christine (The Raw Project) May 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Wow, the gratin looks wonderful, beautiful pics. Awesome job and thanks for the recipe!

When I feel like something special, I usually go for a monster salad with a complicated dressing or something that requires baking time.


melissa May 16, 2011 at 6:25 pm

that looks amazing but do you think it would be ok without the cheese? does that un-gratin it haha?


Gena May 16, 2011 at 9:37 pm

It would be great, but do use the basil. Not quite the same, and I might suggest a nut cheese…but it wouldn’t suffer too much!


Jenn May 17, 2011 at 2:16 am

Hi Gena,
Just recently learned of your blog and am quite impressed. However I was wondering about your opinion of the whole “nightshade” veggie controversy? Do you think the alkaloid content of vegetables such as eggplant is something to be concerned about?

Would love to know your thoughts on this topic!


Valerie @ City|Life|Eats May 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

Oh yum – I love this idea. My husband is not a Daiya fan, but I might try this with a cashew cheese between the veggie layers and then top my side with Daiya. Yum.


Kate (Bread & Chocolate) May 17, 2011 at 10:23 am

I’ve really come around to enjoying eggplant – I’ll have to give it a try. Here’s a raw dessert idea to complement your main meal – berry tartlets. Enjoy!



Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table May 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I just made this for dinner with a couple of edits. Ah-mazing. :)


Gena May 26, 2011 at 6:34 am



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