I think it's worth mentioning that this attention to quality should extend to even the breadcrumbs. It is so easy to make them and the ones that come in cans, bags and boxes are so very inferior. Please make your own. It would be silly to go to all the trouble to make a wonderful tomato sauce and combine it with farm fresh eggplant, summer basil and good Parmesan only to top it with something that is the equivalent of sawdust.
To make fresh bread crumbs you need slightly stale bread. The best bread crumbs are made from good baguettes and artisanal country French or Italian-style loaves. Since these types of loaves don't have any preservatives, they are generally stale enough to be made into breadcrumbs a couple of days after they have been baked. If you never have odds and ends of bread left over, purchase a loaf, let it get stale and then make crumbs. A whole loaf will make a lot of bread crumbs, but that's not really a problem because they freeze very well. To make the crumbs, cut off the hard crusts and then cut the interior of the bread into chunks. Process the chunks in the food processor until they are as coarse or as fine as you want. For "fine, dry breadcrumbs", I dry the chunks of bread (or coarsely ground crumbs) in a low oven. When they are cool, I grind them until they are fine. These can be frozen, too.
When you look at this recipe you will probably notice that it is a very simple version of Eggplant Parmesan. Many of the traditional dishes of Provence have Italian counterparts. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about French Soupe au Pistou—a soup much like Italian Minestrone. With the Italian version of this gratin in mind, you might think of adding some sliced Mozzarella or Fontina to the first two layers of eggplant and tomato sauce. A little ricotta or some thinly sliced prosciutto would also be nice. Like any gratin, there are lots of possibilities for layers and lots of flavor combinations to play with.
For my part, I love this dish on the simple side. Occasionally I will follow Lulu Peyraud's example and make it with just the tomato sauce, eggplant (she fries hers—but this is a bit too much oil for me) and breadcrumbs. It is quite good even without the Parmesan and the basil. However you choose to make it, I like it best served as an entrée—with a nice green salad and some good crusty bread.
(Gratin d'Aubergines aux Tomates)2 eggplant (1 1/2 to 2 lbs.)
Salt & Pepper
2 to 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
Several leaves of fresh basil, torn or cut in a wide chiffonade
1/3 to 1/2 c. finely grated Parmesan (1 to 1 1/2 oz.)
3/4 c. fresh coarse bread crumbs
1 to 2 T. olive oil for drizzling
While the eggplant cooks, warm the tomato sauce over low heat.
To build the gratin, lightly oil a shallow 1 1/2- to 2-quart gratin or casserole. Arrange 1/3 of the eggplant in a snug layer in the bottom of the gratin. It is fine if the slices overlap slightly. Spread a third of the tomato sauce over the layer of eggplant.