Oven-Roast Vegetables

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Preparation info

  • For

    8-10

    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

These days we have learned to like our vegetables underdone. Just when you thought that was settled, here is a recipe which calls for them to be cooked till they literally keel over. But first they are sliced and topped with crunchy olive oil breadcrumbs before being slow-baked to the point of collapse. The vegetables may be cooked and served individually; but a mixture of onions, aubergines, tomatoes and peppers, each topped with a differently flavoured crumb, provides contrasting flavours, textures and colours in a dish that is perfect for a summer lunch with a basket of flat breads (page 42). This is for 8 or even 10 people and should be presented on a large serving dish.

Ingredients

  • 8-10 slices from a stale crusty white loaf
  • about 150 ml/¼ pt extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 4 large red sweet peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 450 g/1 lb white onions
  • 450 g/1 lb purple onions
  • handful of thyme leaves
  • handful of fresh oregano (if available)
  • 450 g/1 lb aubergines or courgettes
  • 1 tbsp Tapenade
  • 1 tbsp Pesto
  • 900 g/2 lb plum tomatoes, home-dried (see page 61)
  • 1 hot red chilli
  • salt and pepper

Method

Preparation

The day before: make the breadcrumbs. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas6. Trim any dark crust off the bread and arrange the slices on a baking tray. Brush lightly on both sides with olive oil, sprinkle over a little salt and pepper, then bake until golden brown. It will take no more than 10 minutes but start checking after 5, because they have a tendency to burn the instant you turn your back. Remove from the oven, leaving it on, and allow to cool until you can handle them. Put into a food processor and chop until you have coarse crumbs. Do not over-process. Put into a screw-top jar and chill.

Cut the sweet peppers lengthwise in half, carefully cutting though the stalk so both halves have an elegant tail, then deseed. Brush inside and out with olive oil. Chop the garlic cloves and distribute equally between the peppers, then bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven setting to 140°C/285°F/gas1 ½ and continue to cook until the peppers are collapsed (about another 40 minutes). Cling-wrap overnight (you can refrigerate for up to 5 days).

On the day you plan to serve the vegetables: preheat the oven to 140°C/285°F/gas1½.

Peel and trim the tops of all the onions, but leave the root ends intact. Cut the onions lengthwise into slices about 1 cm/½ in thick. Brush a baking tray with olive oil and arrange the slices in it in a single layer. Mix 2 heaped tablespoons of the crumbs with the chopped thyme leaves and the chopped fresh oregano, if using. Sprinkle over the onions.

Cut the aubergines lengthwise into 1 cm/½ in slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil and arrange in an oiled baking tray. Mix 2 heaped tablespoons of crumbs with the tapenade and scatter over the top. Do the same for courgettes.

Cooking

Put both trays to bake for about 1 hour, until the vegetable slices have shrunk by half and the onions are golden brown.

Mix 2 heaped tablespoons of crumbs with the pesto and sprinkle over the tomatoes.

Mix 2 heaped tablespoons of crumbs with the deseeded and diced chilli and sprinkle over the sweet peppers.

Put the tray of tomatoes in the oven to heat through for the last 10 minutes, as the aubergines and onions finish cooking. Preheat the grill.

Just before serving, finish the peppers under the grill for 2-3 minutes, keeping a close watch on the crumbs to prevent them burning.

Serving

Transfer all to a serving dish, dress with more oil and serve with warm bread.

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