One of the reasons I love Provençal cooking so much is that vegetables never take a back seat. They are an integral part (I would even say the cornerstone!) of Provençal cuisine. They’re treated with great respect, cooked in an uncomplicated manner, and always taste fabulous.
This gratin is an homage to the cuisine of Provence – in all its simple deliciousness. Young zucchini are sautéed in olive oil, then topped with an aromatic tomato sauce and baked until all the flavors have merged. Simple, for sure, but also mouthwatering… and absolutely superb when served with either toasted couscous or quinoa.
Needless to say, when making a dish with so few ingredients, the freshness of the vegetables is key. Sun-ripened tomatoes and just-picked zucchini from the farmers’ market (or your own backyard!) are ideal. They’ll deliver a gratin that will make your taste buds sing with delight.
It’s no accident that the wines of Provence pair perfectly with the local cuisine – both are the product of a sun-drenched land. And a Provençal red from Ventoux AOC is perfect here. These wines are juicy and have good acidity, red fruit aromas and a hint of spice – beautiful with the flavorful gratin. Of course, a Côtes du Rhône is delicious here too!
Provençal Zucchini Gratin
active time: 1 hr (includes making the tomato sauce)
- 5 young zucchini (about 8″ long)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- 1 recipe summer tomato sauce with sweet onions and fresh herbs
- 1/2 cup finely grated Reggiano Parmesan
- 1 medium ceramic baking dish (12″ x 9″ x 3″) – lightly brushed with olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Trim the stem ends of the zucchini and cut in half lengthwise. Set aside. Heat a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. (The pan must be large enough to hold the zucchini in one layer. If you don’t have a pan that’s big enough, sauté the zucchini in two batches.) Add the olive oil and zucchini halves, placing them in the pan cut-side-down. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until golden-brown. Turn the slices over and continue to sauté for about 2 minutes until golden-brown. (They will cook faster on the second side.) Transfer to the prepared baking dish, placing them cut-side-up and slightly overlapping, and sprinkle with the salt. Spoon the tomato sauce over the zucchini. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the zucchini is very tender, the juices are bubbly and the top is brown. Remove from oven and serve either warm or at room temperature.
The zucchini and tomato sauce will release some very flavorful juices during the baking. So make sure to drizzle those on the couscous or quinoa… or mop them up with a piece of crusty bread!
Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.