Briam: Greek Roasted Vegetables
Potato • Vegetables • White Wine • Olive Oil
If you really want to understand exactly how generously olive oil is used in Greek cuisine, then you need to try this braised vegetable dish—just don’t freak out when you see the quantity of EVOO called for. It’s a lot, but a Greek cook would probably use twice as much! The idea is to flavor the vegetables with the natural nutty-fruit flavor of the oil while making the vegetables super soft and aromatic. Similar versions can be found in the cooking of Italy (verdure brasate), France (ratatouille), and Spain (estofado de verduras). I make this dish with two different types of potato—white russet and yellow (unlike traditional versions, I leave mine unpeeled to reap all that great fiber)—along with eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onion, and garlic, although you could swap in any vegetables you like. Choose a healthy-looking eggplant that’s firm to the touch, and the thickest zucchini you can find, and keep everything in a circular pattern when layering the vegetables for the prettiest presentation. This dish is best cooked in a Dutch oven or earthenware baking dish that can comfortably hold a layer of vegetables about 4 inches deep. For the best flavor, let the dish rest for a few hours. The juices released by the vegetables will reabsorb and make this dish super tasty. I always felt that aside from the quality of vegetables and olive oil (which is really important), allowing the dish to “sit” was one of the secrets to making a star-worthy briam.
Wild Bonus: This dish pairs well with animal-based proteins, helping you achieve the perfect plant fiber-to-protein ratio.
3⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for baking and serving
3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices
5 medium yellow potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices
1 large eggplant, cut in 1⁄2-inch-thick slices
5 zucchini, cut into 1⁄2-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
1 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons dried oregano
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium onion, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
4 large tomatoes, cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil two large baking sheets with olive oil.
Spread the sliced potatoes, eggplant, and zucchini on the sheets in a single layer. You may need to do this in batches if they don’t all fit in a single layer in two pans. Drizzle the vegetables with some olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Roast the vegetables for 20 minutes, turning once at the halfway point. Take the vegetables out, but leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix together the 3⁄4 cup olive oil, wine, tomato paste, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt.
Oil the bottom and sides of a Dutch oven or deep ovenproof pan. Working in a circular pattern, use half of the potatoes to line the bottom of the pan. Scatter a few pinches of oregano over the potatoes and continue layering with the eggplant, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, the remaining potatoes, and the sliced tomatoes, adding a sprinkle of oregano to each layer.
Drizzle the olive oil/wine/tomato mixture over the top of the vegetables. Sprinkle a bit of oregano over the top. Bake until the potatoes on top are soft, about 30 minutes.
Allow the dish to cool completely before serving.