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Mediterranean gratin
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds eggplant, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced into rounds 1/4-inch thick
3 medium onions, peeled and coarsely minced
1 1/2 pounds fennel bulb, sliced 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons scallions, green parts only, or chives, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds large ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place eggplant slices on thick sheet
pan. Brush both sides of eggplant with thin coat of olive oil. Bake
10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

In large, hot saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over a
medium-high flame, add zucchini slices, turn heat to high, and
saute for 4 minutes. Salt lightly. Remove from pan and cool.

Using same saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil, stir in onion,
and saute for 4 minutes. Add fennel and cook until tender, over
low heat, about 30 minutes. Salt to taste. Let cool.

In a bowl, combine bread crumbs, cheese, herbs, scallions or chives,
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste), and several grinds of pepper.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees. Lightly brush a 16-by-10-inch gratin
dish with olive oil. Line bottom of dish with half the onion-fennel
mixture. Cover with a layer of 1/2 the sliced tomatoes, a layer of
1/2 the zucchini and a layer of 1/2 the eggplant. Between each
layer, sprinkle 1/4-cup of the bread-crumb mixture. Repeat, ending
with eggplant. Bake 50 to 70 minutes, until bubbly and slightly
brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature. The gratin is
best if allowed to mellow at least 1/2 hour before serving.

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