Veggie Hills

¼ to ½ c olive oil
Eggplant, chubby variety, enough for 12 ½-inch slices
Zucchini, also chubby variety — the ones some tired gardener left on your back doorstep…enough for 6 ½-inch slices
Yellow squash, same as zucchini
6 large mushrooms, button, stuffing kind
Six slices worth large onions, Vidalias or reds
3 thick red peppers
3 hefty plum tomatoes, chopped, seeded
1 c or more ricotta
2-3 t fresh thyme (or dried equivalent)
¾ lb mozzarella, fresh if available, divided into 6 slices
6 fresh rosemary springs
salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes to taste

The initial cooking can all be done the day before if you please. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Slice all veggies (except red peppers, tomatoes, and mushrooms) to approximately ½ inch. Save all end pieces, etc. Use just enough of the oil to either grill, broil, or roast slices and residue (at 450° for about 10 minutes — leave some bite; you don’t want mush). Your choice, I’ve tried all three and like each method equally. Transfer cooked veggies to large tray (I use a large Pyrex baking dish); be sure to include all the veggie juice! Roast, grill, or broil the red peppers until skin is black; pop into brown bag for about 10 minutes, then skin, (it pulls off easily) and cut in half. Discard the seeds, but reserve as much of the juice as possible. Add it to the rest of the veggies and juice. Stem the mushrooms, cooking both the caps and stems by your choice method. Save juice.

Stir together ricotta, thyme, salt and peppers. Put one eggplant slice on lightly oiled baking dish. (I use another good old Pyrex baking dish, about 8×12 inches.) Spread some ricotta mixture over the eggplant, then layer zucchini, onion, mozzarella, eggplant, more ricotta, yellow squash, red pepper half, top with button of the mushroom. Make 5 more veggie hills in same manner.

With a wooden skewer of whatever, make a hole from top to bottom through the center of each hill, then insert rosemary springs, leaving about 1 inch of leaves around the top. Take all veggie ends, lovely juice, and chopped tomatoes and pour into middle of and/or around the veggie hills. Bake at 450° about 20 minutes, or until cheese are melted, juices bubbling, and veggies heating though. Serve with orzo, rice, or whatever. Yum.

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