I have a neighbor with an enviable garden. It’s the kind of garden that I hope to grow one day—full of fresh fruit and veggies for every season—but until then, I’ll have to just relish her leftovers.
A few days ago, a bag of zucchini was waiting for me on my front porch, and I knew immediately where some of the bounty would go: toward making Fresh Tomato and Zucchini au Gratin from the Comfort Food cookbook.
I’m a big fan of macaroni and cheese, and while I usually substitute vegetables for much of the macaroni, it’s still a really heavy dish. For those evenings when I’m really craving cheesy goodness, I’m always looking for recipes that are a little lighter and healthier, and won’t induce an immediate food coma! This recipe fills the bill and is really very simple to make.
Before we get into the recipe, I should mention that I cut the full recipe below by a third for my purposes so that I wouldn’t have too many leftovers.
Fresh Tomato and Zucchini au Gratin (page 108 from Comfort Food)
Makes 6 servings
· 4 medium tomatoes, cored
· Salt, to taste, plus ¼ teaspoon
· 3 zucchini (each 6 to 7 inches long)
· ⅓ cup heavy cream (optional)
· 1 large slice dense white of whole wheat bread, cut into cubes
· ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
· small handful fresh Italian parsley
· 2 teaspoons dried basil or 6 to 7 leaves fresh basil, finely chopped
· ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 3 tablespoons olive oil
Cut the tomatoes into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place the slices in a colander over a large bowl. Salt, to taste, and toss to coat. Set aside to drain for 30 minutes.
Rinse and dry the zucchini. Slice each one into ¼-inch-thick slices, cutting slightly on the diagonal. Put the slices into a large bowl, salt, to taste, and toss lightly. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter a shallow 13x9-inch baking dish or large gratin dish. (For a slightly richer version, if using heavy cream, pour it into the dish and tilt to coat.) Note: I didn’t use heavy cream and just the butter-coated the pan.
Combine the bread, Parmesan cheese, and parsley in a food processor. Pulse to reduce the bread to fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and add the basil, salt, and pepper. Mix to blend.
Lay the zucchini slices on paper towels and pat dry.
Lay tomato slices in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Place the zucchini slices on top. Spread the bread crumbs over the zucchini and evenly drizzle the olive oil on top.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly.
Makes 6 servings.
This is a great recipe for when you have extra zucchini or tomatoes to use up or want a lighter dish that still has great cheesy flavor. It was cinch to make, too: the most time-consuming part (other than baking) was setting the sliced tomatoes and zucchini aside to drain. All in all, by working on other parts of the recipe while this was happening, I had dinner out of the oven and ready to eat in little over an hour.