|November 9, 2011||Posted by Cheeks under Main Course, Make-ahead, Side Dishes, Vegetarian|
It’s that time of year again – the late summer zucchini season! (Or, it was when I wrote this. A long honeymoon, long work trip, some of life’s punches to the face, and the general malaise that accompanies the seasonal transition into winter have seriously depleted my blogging energy. But, I shall return triumphantly! Until then, bear with my out-of-season posts until I catch back up on life…)
Anyone with a garden, a relative with a garden, a CSA, or a neigbor with a garden knows what I mean. The zucchinis are reaching baseball bat size right about now, and gardeners are generously foisting them off by the bucketful to whomever will take them.
You know, zucchini gets a bad rep sometimes – almost like the “fruitcake” of vegetables – that everybody gives but nobody wants. And that’s unfair, because zucchini truly can be delicious. It’s just that it grows so fast, that all of a sudden what was a few pretty yellow flowers is an army of zucchini logs begging for a home. And, true, if you don’t treat it right, it can turn into a tasteless pile of mush. But if you give it some love, it will love you back. Bow-chicka-bow-wow.
Personally, the first thing I do when I get a zucchini overload is to grill it. Thick-cut slices, cubes on skewers, small halves – just drizzle them with olive oil, season with anything you want (the blank canvas of this squashy veggie can take on any flavor, from chili to herb to curry and more) and grill until charred and tender. It’s actually surprisingly delicious simply sauteed with olive oil, lots of garlic, and a little onion and herb. What else?
Creativity, that’s what we need. Zucchini in baked goods is nothing new – shredded zucchini melts into quick breads (keep an eye out for an upcoming zucchini muffin) and even cakes (one day, i’ll post my chocolate zucchini cake recipe here for you all), adding moisture without any texture or fat. Zucchini Lasagna is a delicious, lighter take on regular lasagna, and in fact I have one sitting in my fridge right now waiting to be baked.
But I was looking for a side dish, not a sweet or main, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start. Try Google-searching “zucchini sides” and you’ll see the wide-eyed wonder at the 10000000000 unhelpful results. So I headed to a trusted food blog to see her take on it – yes, the amazing Deb of SmittenKitchen.com. And, as always, she didn’t fail me.
Not only did she not fail me – she gave me a delicious recipe AND a memory of an awesome Disney movie about a little Rat that could. This is a version of ratatouille, the classic French vegetable stew, as envisioned by Ratatouille, the eponymous, incorrigible rat who is determined to be a great chef someday, despite his rodent status. His re-envisioned ratatouille is central to the movie, and you should all watch it. The end.
I followed Deb’s advice exactly, since girl knows what she’s talking about. Except, I didn’t have big peppers – only small – so I had to improvise with how I layered the peppers in there. And, I put oregano in the tomato sauce, because I just got Mexican oregano for the first time and me loves it, so I put it in everything vaguely tomato-y or Italian-y.
And I took some liberties with baking – baking it in our toaster oven instead of the regular oven, because it was durn hot the day I made it. AND I actually baked it, refrigerated it for two days, then heated it up for dinner (this is how I make things like this on a weeknight – i don’t). The resulting dish was, honestly, delicious. The veggies meld their flavors with one another, the sauce unifies it into something more than just roasted squashes, and it somehow becomes more than the sum of its parts. I can totally see eating it, like Deb suggest, as a main dish over couscous. And I can’t wait to eat my leftovers at lunch!
Ratatouille a la Ratatouille
Thanks to Smitten Kitchen once again for providing a great recipe! The adjusted-for-quantity version below serves 4-6 as a side, and probably just 2-3 as a main dish as Deb suggested, over couscous and topped with goat cheese.
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 medium summer squash
- 1 small or japanese eggplant
- 1 large (long, if possible) red or orange pepper
- fresh thyme
- salt & pepper