Traditional Roasted Ratatouille

TRADITIONAL ROASTED RATATOUILLE
Saute and then bake summer veggies which can be served hot or cold or even at room temperature as an antipasto or side dish. Also good served over couscous.

1/2 cup olive oil, or more
2 medium red onions, thinly sliced (2 cups)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese, optional
1 pound unpeeled zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices (4 cups)
1/2 cup basil leaves
2 teaspoons salt
large pinch cayenne
2 large red bell peppers, cut into strips, core and seeds removed, (3 cups)
1 pound eggplant, cut into large dice (4 cups), peeled or not (I peel regular eggplant but I do not peel the little Japanese eggplant if I am using them)
2 pounds unpeeled fresh tomatoes, cut into large chunks (4 cups) (or cherry/grape tomatoes can be used - just cut in half)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (I have substituted oregano at times)
1 cup coarse bread crumbs or more, optional

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Cook onions 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to 6-quart dutch oven. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese (if used) over onions.

In same skillet, heat 2 more tablespoons olive oil and saute zucchini in batches for 5 minutes, adding oil as necessary. Layer zucchini slices and several basil leaves over cheese; sprinkle with salt and a light pinch of cayenne.

In same skillet, saute peppers 5 minutes. Layer them and more basil leaves over zucchini, and season with salt and cayenne.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil and saute as many eggplant cubes as will fit in a single layer for 5 minutes. Repeat with all cubes, adding oil as necessary. Layer the eggplant on top of the peppers.

Saute tomato cubes briefly and layer them with the last of the basil leaves over the eggplant. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne.

Scatter with remaining cheese, thyme leaves and bread crumbs, covering tomatoes.

Cover with foil or a lid and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes more to brown the top.

NOTE: I have added sliced fresh mushrooms at times; I have left out the cheese at times and substituted other cheses/cheese blends at times.