To kick things off, I happily present an incidentally vegan casserole that was one of my mother's signature dishes. Its real name is tourlou tourlou - which apparently means something like "all mixed up" - and it has a close Turkish analogue called briam, but for some now-forgotten, almost certainly baby-talk-related reason our family has always called it "dooda." Its combination of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, garlic, and tomatoes - along with its endless adaptability - is reminiscent of ratatouille, but unlike that Provençal stew, this vegetable melange is baked. It also calls for potatoes and sometimes rice, and employs more "Greeky" seasonings like dill and rosemary (I give the envelope an extra push by adding za'ataar, because I am Officially Obsessed With It).
Of course you can add or subtract ingredients to suit availability and personal taste. Some versions call for okra, but my dad hated it so it never appeared on our dinner table; others call for capers, which strikes me as totally weird, but if you're into that sort of thing, by all means go for it. My mother always included butternut squash, so I've followed her lead here and, as ever, I tend towards a generous hand with seasonings; you should feel free to adjust quantities according to your own likes and dislikes.
The main thing to remember with a dish like this one is that it is both informal and extremely user-friendly: precision and fastidiousness need not apply, just a craptonne of fresh vegetables! This admirable flexibility extends to serving as well, because it is equally good hot, cold, or (my personal favorite) room temperature. The finished product makes a delicious meal all on its own, or you could add a salad, or some white beans, or some green beans, or some crusty bread, or even all of the above for an extravagant Greek feast just like Yia Yia (and Papou) used to make.
~ ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1 large red onion, rough dice
~ 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
~ 1 large eggplant
~ 1 large green zucchini
~ 1 large yellow zucchini
~ 1 small butternut squash
~ 2 large potatoes
~ 2 bell peppers (any color)
~ 1 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, drained, with liquid reserved
~ 2 tsp. each: dill, oregano, marjoram, basil, parsley, salt
~ 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled in your fingers
~ 1 tbsp. za'ataar
~ A few healthy grinds black pepper
~ Oil a large, deep casserole and preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
~ Chop all the veggies except the onions and garlic into approximately 1" chunks.
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the sliced garlic and cook about one minute more.
~ Remove the pot from the heat and gradually mix in the chopped vegetables, drained tomatoes, and seasonings, making sure everything is well combined and coated with the seasonings.
~ Transfer the vegetable mixture to your oiled casserole and cover the whole business tightly with aluminum foil.
~ Bake at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes, checking once at about the halfway point. The vegetables should provide plenty of moisture, but if things do seem to be drying out, you can add up to a cup of the reserved tomato liquid and/or water to a corner of the pan (don't pour it over the vegetables!).
~ Remove the foil and test for "doneness"; the vegetables should be soft, and the potatoes fork tender.
~ Stir well, test for seasoning (you might want to add more of something; adjust to taste), and continue baking uncovered for another 30 minutes.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving. This dish gets better as it sits, so if you have sufficient time and/or organizational skills, you can make it a day or two ahead with excellent results.