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Zucchini gratin

Try these simple, summery sides (or suppers).

By Adam Ried
August 7, 2011

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Don’t look now, but home gardens and farmers’ markets are about to overflow with the annual bumper crop of zucchini. In the quest to use as many as I can, I often make a gratin to serve as a side dish with anything from the grill or, paired with bread, salad, and a glass of cold rose, as a fine summer repast (if you go this route, count on these recipes to serve 4 instead of 6). With its mild, earthy flavor, zucchini is great with the season’s fresh corn and peppers, as well as with goat cheese and rich, sweet caramelized onions, or potatoes and pesto. Note that for all of these recipes, you should salt-prep the zucchini (see Kitchen Aide) about an hour before assembling and baking the gratins.

Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Gratin

Serves 6 as a side dish

3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for dish

1 large onion, chopped

Salt and black pepper

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

5 cups corn kernels, cut from 5 large ears of corn

4 medium poblano peppers, charred, peeled, seeded, and chopped (1 scant cup)

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano

1½ cups (about 6 ounces) crumbled queso fresco

4 medium zucchini (about

2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch slices and prepared for baking (see Kitchen Aide)

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and light golden, about 5 minutes. Add 1 clove minced garlic and the cumin, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 45 seconds. In a large bowl, stir together the onion mixture, corn, poblanos, oregano, black pepper to taste, and 1/2 cup queso fresco.

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a shallow 2-quart baking dish with oil and spread the onion-corn mixture into an even layer.

In the same bowl, toss the zucchini, 1 tablespoon oil, the remaining garlic, and black pepper to taste. Shingle the zucchini over the corn mixture and bake until just tender, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, toss the remaining queso fresco, bread crumbs, remaining oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Remove the baking dish from the oven, sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over the zucchini, return the gratin to the oven, and bake until the topping is lightly browned, about 12 minutes longer. Allow the gratin to stand for at least 5 minutes and serve.

Zucchini and Caramelized Onion Gratin with Olives and Goat Cheese

Serves 6 as a side dish

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for dish

3 large onions, thinly sliced (about 7½ cups)

Salt and pepper

1½ cups fresh bread crumbs

2 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, mint, thyme, tarragon, chives, or celery leaves

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 medium zucchini (about

3 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch slices and prepared for baking (see Kitchen Aide)

3/4 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and halved lengthwise

1½ cups (about 6 ounces) crumbled fresh goat cheese

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil until it shimmers. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the skillet, until the onions are soft, sticky, and golden brown, about 40 minutes longer (you will have about 2 generous cups caramelized onions). Set aside to cool.

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a shallow 2-quart baking dish with oil, add 1/4 cup bread crumbs in an even layer, and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini, 1½ tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon herbs, and the garlic. Mix in the caramelized onions, olives, and pepper to taste. Spread about two-thirds of the mixture into an even layer in the baking dish. Spread the crumbled goat cheese evenly over the zucchini layer and roughly shingle the remaining zucchini mixture over the cheese. Bake until the zucchini is just tender, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, toss the remaining oil, remaining herbs, remaining bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Remove the baking dish from the oven, sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over the zucchini, return the gratin to the oven, and bake until the topping is lightly browned, about 12 minutes longer. Allow the gratin to stand for at least 5 minutes and serve.

Zucchini, Potato, and Pesto Gratin

Serves 6 as a side dish

Salt and pepper

1½ pounds medium redskin or Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for dish

2/3 cup pesto

4 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch slices and prepared for baking (see Kitchen Aide)

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1/3 cup pine nuts

In a large saucepan, bring 3 quarts water to boil over high heat. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the potatoes, return to the boil, adjust the heat to medium-high, and simmer until potatoes are barely tender, about 3½ minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup cooking water, drain potatoes, immediately arrange them in single layer on a rimmed baking sheet to cool slightly, and rest about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a shallow 2-quart baking dish with oil and set aside. In a large bowl, gently toss the potatoes, half of the pesto, and the reserved potato cooking water. Spread the potatoes into an even layer in the baking dish. In the same bowl, toss the zucchini and remaining pesto, then roughly shingle the zucchini over the potatoes. Bake until the zucchini is just tender, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the same bowl, toss the bread crumbs, pine nuts, 1½ tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Remove the baking dish from the oven, sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over the zucchini, return the gratin to the oven, and bake until the topping is lightly browned, about 12 minutes longer. Allow the gratin to stand for at least 5 minutes and serve.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

  • August 7, 2011 cover
  • August 7, 2011 cover
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KITCHEN AIDE
Salting zucchini

Zucchini’s high liquid content can cause it to go soft and mushy in the oven. As with other oven-bound summer produce such as eggplant and tomatoes, I salt zucchini before baking it to draw out some of the water. Here’s how. In a colander set over a bowl, toss 2 pounds of sliced zucchini with 2 teaspoons salt and let drain for about an hour. (After only a few minutes, you’ll see liquid starting to bead.) Before cooking the zucchini, rinse off the salt, spread the squash in a single layer on a triple thickness of paper towels, and blot dry with more paper towels, pressing firmly to absorb as much liquid as possible (it’s OK if the slices become compressed).