Juicy tomato, eggplant’s meaty texture that absorbs garlic, oregano, and ancho, and almond’s deep flavor combine in this baked vegetable side dish. Here I’ve taken the traditional cheese and breadcrumb crust packed with saturated fat and replaced it with a nutrient-rich topping high in monounsaturated fat, a fat that contributes to a balanced cholesterol profile and heart health (Ipatenco; “Nuts and Your Heart”). Lycopene, the carotenoid that gives tomatoes and other fruits their reddish-orange color and helps lower cancer and stroke risk, releases as the tomatoes cook (Karppi; Godman; "Q&A: Lycopene in Cooked Tomatoes?"). When you consider these health benefits as you devour the scrumptious toasted almond, garlic, Ancho, and olive oil crust, you won’t miss cheesy breadcrumbs.
While best if consumed within an hour or so of baking, you can enjoy the gratin the next day by baking a portion in a toaster oven to heat the base and crisp the crust.
4 early girl tomatoes (or another medium-sized red tomato variety), skinned*
1 medium-sized eggplant*
¼ teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
¼ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup almond flour
1-tablespoon olive oil
2 medium garlic gloves, crushed or finely chopped
Salt, to taste (a generous sprinkle over the tomatoes, and in the almond topping)
¼ teaspoon Ancho chili powder
1-2 pinches of ground black pepper
4-5 fresh basil leaves, torn
1. Preheat oven to 380 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Wash, dry, and slice the tomatoes and eggplant into a ¼ inch thick slices.
3. Spread olive oil around a medium-sized baking dish.
4. Place the tomato and eggplant slices in a fan across the baking dish (see the picture).
5. Sprinkle the chopped oregano leaves and a generous pinch of salt over the top of the tomatoes and eggplant.
6. Mix the chopped almonds, almond flour, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, crushed garlic, Ancho chili powder, and ground black pepper together in a bowl. A crumb topping will form as you mix these ingredients.
7. Spread the almond mixture on top of the tomatoes.
8. Place the dish on the top rack of the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes.
9. Let the gratin cool for about 8 minutes before dividing it into portions, garnishing with torn basil leaves, and serving.
*To skin the tomatoes, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Make on X on the bottom of the tomatoes with your knife (just enough to pierce the skin) and cut the cores out. Submerge the tomatoes in the hot water for just under a minute, and then pull out of the hot water to shock them in salted ice-cold water. In about one-two minutes, the tomatoes should be cool enough to handle. Pull the skin off and place the tomatoes on a cutting board to slice.
*With its soft skin, Rosa Bianca is the variety I prefer, but any smaller, thin-skinned eggplant variety will do. Usually the globe eggplant is too thick-skinned and large in diameter for this recipe.
Godman, Heidi. "Lycopene-rich Tomatoes Linked to Lower Stroke Risk." Harvard Health Blog RSS. Harvard Medical School, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.
Ipatenco, Sara. "Monounsaturated Fat Vs. Polyunsaturated Fat." Healthy Eating: SFGate, n.d. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.
Karppi, Jouni, et al. "Serum Lycopene Decreases the Risk of Stroke in Men." Neurology, 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.
“Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts for Heart Health.” Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.
"Q&A: Lycopene in Cooked Tomatoes?" Consumer Reports News, 4 Sept. 2009. Web. 16 Aug. 2015.