This dish was inspired by something we had in a restaurant in Corsica last year: roasted eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers, that are subsequently baked with a generous amount of cheese. The Sardinian pecorino I used for my own rendition was a bit too dry so it did not melt properly, but it tasted great all the same. The vegetables take a lot longer to cook (especially the eggplant; with peppers and zucchini it is not such an issue if they are still a bit raw, but raw eggplant is like banana peel) than the cheese to melt, that is why the vegetables need to be roasted before adding the cheese. The result is very tasty and can be served as an appetizer, side dish, for lunch, or as a vegetarian main course.
For 3 servings
1 eggplant (aubergine)
1 zucchini (courgette)
2 bell peppers (I used 1 red and 1 yellow)
180 grams (6 oz) grated sheep’s milk cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh thyme, leaves only
Remove both ends of the eggplant, and cut it into slices of about 8 mm (1/3 inch). Do the same with the zucchini.
Arrange the eggplant and zucchini slices in a single layer on kitchen paper, and sprinkle with sale on both sides. Allow the salt to draw out some of the water for at least half an hour.
Meanwhile, roast the bell peppers in the oven at 250C/480F until they are blistered all over. Then allow them to cool in a closed plastic bag. This will make it easier to peel them. Lower the oven temperature to 225C/440F.
Pat the eggplant and zucchini dry with paper towels.
Arrange the eggplant and zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet that you covered with parchment paper, and brush them on all sides (top, bottom, and sides) with olive oil.
Roast the eggplant and zucchini at 225C/440F until they start to color, about 15 minutes. Then turn them around…
…and return them to the oven until they are golden on both sides, another 10 to 15 minutes.
Lower the oven temperature to 200C/390F (or turn it off completely if you are planning to serve this later).
Meanwhile, the peppers should have cooled enough that you can peel them.
Remove the skin from the bell peppers…
…as well as the seeds.
Pat the roasted peppers dry with paper towels.
Brush 3 oven proof dishes with olive oil.
Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini slices in a single layer in the dishes. Season with freshly ground black pepper (the zucchini and eggplant have already been seasoned with salt). Sprinkle with 1/3 of the thyme.
Cover with 1/3 of the cheese.
Arrange the bell pepper on top. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sprinkle with 1/3 of the thyme.
Cover with 1/3 of the cheese.
Cover with the remaining eggplant, zucchini, thyme (season with pepper), and cheese.
The dish can be prepared up to this point in advance.
To finish, bake at 200C/390F until the cheese has melted and is golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
This is great with a dry rosé, such as from Provence.
Bacalà alla Vicentina is a famous dish from the North Italian city of Vicenza, prepared with dried cod. The cod is cooked low and slow and flavored with onions, anchovies, parsley, milk, extra virgin olive oil, and grated cheese (grana padana or parmigiano reggiano). This is one of the exceptions where cheese is actually paired with fish. The sauce has a wonderful flavor and I like the dish, but thought I would like it even better with fresh cod. The recipe is traditionally made with dried salted cod because Vicenza is located too far from the sea to be able to eat fresh fish before refrigeration was invented. But now that fresh fish is available everywhere, why not try the same dish with fresh cod? I really liked the result; the dish has a more ‘clean’ and elegant taste when made with fresh fish, and the fish is more tender as well.