Briam: Traditional Greek Roasted Summer Vegetables (Greek Ratatouille)
Summer is a wonderful season, don’t you agree? One of its perks is the abundance of vegetables. So many to choose from, and create wonderful, healthy and vegetarian (or vegan) dishes.
We find it important to cook with seasonal veggies. It’s the one thing we keep mentioning in our newsletters and the reason we created a series with seasonal fruits and veggies.
Why is it important? Because cooking with seasonal veggies means you get to consume each produce at its prime. At the right moment. When the weather conditions and the soil are perfect for each vegetable.
For example: You want to make stuffed tomatoes and peppers with rice (gemista/yemista) and it’s December. How good do you think this dish would taste? It won’t do it any justice! Why? Because tomatoes and peppers are summer vegetables, so their taste will be bland. So the best time to have them, is during summer, especially from mid-July to late August.
The same dish cooked during the summer will taste a hundred times better. Guaranteed.
During this season, the Mediterranean is full of tomatoes, zucchini, eggplants and bell peppers. So making dishes with some of them (or all of them) together is very common. These type of dishes are popular and a must in any Greek household.
This is why for this post we chose to share with you one of the recipes that is a staple of the Greek summer table and a definite comfort food: Briam.
What is briam? Briam is the Greek version of ratatouille. A one-pan dish with zucchini, eggplants, potatoes, bell peppers, onions and tomatoes that are roasted with parsley, garlic, spearmint and extra virgin olive oil.
You can also see it as Tourlou (meaning “mixed everything together in one”). The difference between briam and tourlou is that tourlou most of the times is a stew made in a pot. And it may also contain fresh green beans. It’s delicious as well, but we prefer the taste of the roasted veggies.
Similar dishes can be found all around the Mediterranean basin. In France it’s ratatouille. In Italy it’s ciambotta, caponata and peperonata. In Spain it’s pisto and samfaina. In Turkey is türlü. In Morocco is zaaluk and so on. You get the picture.
What makes this recipe so irresistibly delicious though, is the fact that all these vegetables are perfectly combined and slowly cooked together, creating a unique taste.
The vegetables used in briam are eggplants, zucchini, potatoes, onions and tomatoes (the latter in this recipe are grated). All of the above are placed in a deep baking dish. You need a deep dish in order to properly fit and cook the veggies.
We used fresh herbs like parsley and spearmint to enhance their flavor. But there are some versions that use oregano or thyme instead. Others also use only fresh dill. The choice is totally up to your liking.
We also added white wine but if you want to make this a more family friendly recipe you can simply omit it and replace it with a little vegetable broth instead.
Regarding the peppers, you can make this dish as spicy as you want. You can add chili and jalapenos, or use the bell peppers and also add a few chili flakes.
In our version we chose to cut the vegetables into 2-3cm/1inch pieces and not slice them in thinner slices like others do sometimes. This is because we wanted each one of the veggies to keep its shape and texture.
Cooking this is not complicated at all (besides you will have our step by step instructions to help you out!). You simply mix everything in the pan (less things to wash this way) and place it in the oven. The oven will do the work for you. This is another thing we like about this recipe. It doesn’t require your full attention. How amazing is that? So keep this dish in mind, especially for busy days.
The secret in this dish is to roast the vegetables for enough time, in order for the water and most of the juices to evaporate. The only things left in the baking dish should be the veggies and this delicious flavored oil at the bottom.
This is certainly a healthy recipe, totally vegetarian and naturally vegan. It’s the ideal one-pan dish for your Meatless Mondays! Tip to our vegan friends: skip the crumbled feta on top and grind some fresh pepper instead. Or drain a piece of tofu on a paper towel enough to crumble it on top. The taste of this dish won’t change a bit.
How to enjoy this dish
This recipe is perfect as a main dish for a hot summer Sunday family lunch or a family gathering.
It is better served warm or at room temperature, not hot straight from the oven. After all, the veggies at this point are boiling hot and you will end up with a burned tongue. So be patient!
One thing is for sure. You need to have bread (we mean A LOT of bread) on the table. The oil left at the bottom of the baking dish or in your plate is a treat you should definitely taste with some bread. Don’t forget to try that!
Oh! And do server some real feta cheese on the side or crumbled on top, if not vegan. You will love this. If you are a vegan do the tofu trick with the paper towel we described above.
Let’s see how to make this one-pan summer dish, shall we?
- 1 medium-sized eggplant (400g / 14oz)*
- 1 medium-sized bell pepper (150g / 5oz), cut into thick slices**
- 2 medium-sized potatoes (600g / 21oz)*
- 3-4 medium-sized zucchini (1kg / 35oz)*
- 2 ripe medium-sized tomatoes (500g / 170z), grated or canned
- 2 medium-sized white onions (350g / 12oz), cut into thick slices
- 4 garlic cloves (30g / 1oz), cut into thin slices
- 4 tbsp (70g / 2oz) tomato paste
- 125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
- 180ml (3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 handful of fresh spearmint leaves, finely chopped
- 2 handfuls of parsley (30g/1oz), finely chopped
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
*All the vegetables are cut into 2-3cm/1inch chunks
** You can use any kind of pepper you like, not just bell pepper, depending on how spicy or not you want this dish.
Preheat the oven (fan assisted) at 200°C / 390°F.
Cut your veggies into 2-3cm/1inch chunks. This way they will hold their shape better.
Add the zucchini, the potatoes and the eggplant into a dip baking dish around 26x38cm / 10x15in (pic.1). Add the pepper, the onions and the garlic (pic.2)
Add the grated tomatoes (pic.3) and the tomato paste (pic.4)
Add the wine (pic.5) and the extra virgin olive oil (pic.6)
Then add the parsley and the spearmint (pic.7). Add the salt, pepper, turmeric and the paprika (pic.8).
Mix well and gently fold everything together (pic.9). Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil (pic.10).
Place into the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, toss the veggies gently (pic.11) and reduce the temperature to 180°C / 350°F.
Continue cooking for 20 more minutes. Then toss the veggies gently one last time and cook for another 20 minutes.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and let it cool for a while. Don’t serve right away. The vegetables at this point are boiling hot and you will not be able to enjoy the flavors.
Once warm or in room temperature, serve with extra parsley on top and crumbled feta cheese. Kali Oreksi!
1. You can bake the veggies sliced if you like, but you will have to adjust the baking time.
2. You can use any type of pepper you like. It can be a red sweet pepper, a jalapeno or chili pepper. It’s totally up to you.
3. Don’t add extra water into the baking dish to cook the veggies. All these vegetables contain enough water to help them cook through during the given cooking time.
4. If you have any leftovers, you can use them as a salsa in a tortilla or with nachos, you can make them a stuffing for an omelet or enjoy them with fusilli. #zerowaste dear friends!
5. At the end of the baking time you can add some feta cheese cut into small cubes in the baking dish and gratinate it for extra flavor.
Did you like this recipe? There many more vegetarian and vegan recipes on our Vegetarian recipes section to choose from. Enjoy!