The walnuts in this gratin offer a crunchy contrast to the roasted eggplant, zucchini and cheesy rice mixture, while the splash of half-and-half adds creamy richness. The brown rice mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated. When ready to prepare, bring to room temperature, spoon into the baking dish, and proceed as directed at the end of step 5.
3/4 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated and divided (1 cup)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ounces French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
How to Make It
Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine eggplant, zucchini, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl; toss to combine. Place eggplant mixture evenly on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes. Place vegetables in a large bowl.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; cook for 12 minutes or until tender. Add onion mixture to eggplant mixture. Add cooked rice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup cheese, and the next 3 ingredients (through eggs), and stir well to combine. Spoon rice mixture into an 11 x 7inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Cover with foil, and bake at 375° for 15 minutes.
Place bread in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1 cup. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add breadcrumbs, and cook for 3 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove pan from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 cup cheese, walnuts, and parsley.
Remove foil from rice mixture. Top evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and topping is browned.
Wine Match: Pick a smooth, midweight red like Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne, Piedmont, Italy, 2009 ($16). With its vibrant fruit and acidity, this soft-tannin wine stands up to the rich cheese without overpowering the tender veggies. --Scott Jones
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