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Thursday, August 5, 2010

great summer dish-- zucchini basil gratin

last night, we turned a corner. we finally had our first full-on celebration of the season of light, fresh,  summer food. nothing came from the freezer, nothing could have been from any ol' time of the year-- only fresh, bright flavors of the season of easy livin'.

the star of the plate, for sure, was the first handful of tomatoes from our garden, sprinkled with some fresh basil and a barely-there drizzle of olive oil and aged balsamic. i've been waiting for that for a long, long time. but, the zucchini basil gratin was unexpectedly incredible. 

when i think "gratin," i think of a comfort dish baked to gooey awesomeness with gobs of cheese and topped with something crunchy. give that idea to seattle chef jerry traunfeld, however, and what you get is a delicate, unfussy dish of green, with a fullness of flavor that is definitely more than the sum of its parts. from the first bite to the last, we both said "wow, this is so good!"

the basil and zucchini, rather than balance or complement each other, actually melt into one new flavor, and the bread crumbs and parmesan topping form a perfect crunchy lattice on top. you might be tempted to tweak the recipe since with only 6 ingredients it seems like it's gonna need a boost-- it doesn't! i admit i was a little disappointed at first that this was the only recipe for zucchini in my new cookbook, but after trying it, all is forgiven!

zucchini basil gratin
adapted from jerry traunfeld's the herbal kitchen
serves 4-6

2 pounds zucchini
2 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbps olive oil
1/2 cup basil, rough chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbps dry bread crumbs (we used panko, as usual)
1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated

shred the zucchini using a box grater or the grater blade on a mandoline. in a large colander, mix it with the salt and leave it to drain for at least 30 minutes. 

preheat oven to 400 degrees. spread 1/2 Tbsp olive oil on bottom of 10-inch casserole or gratin dish. sprinkle with 1 Tbsp of the bread crumbs and shake to coat evenly.

gather zucchini by the handful to squeeze out the moisture. there's a lot of moisture! (next time i might wrap all the zucchini in cheese cloth and give it a good squeeze, just to save a few minutes.) in mixing bowl, toss zucchini thoroughly with 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and the chopped basil. loosely press the mixture into the casserole dish.

in same mixing bowl, mix the remaining bread crumbs, the cheese, and 1 Tbsp olive oil. sprinkle topping on zucchini and bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

zucchini from alvarez farms
basil from our garden


  1. made this a few nights ago . . . been craving it ever since!!! oh why did i not plant a zucchini plant this year???

  2. c and g, funny-- i woke up thinking about this gratin, and put zucchini on the market list for today! this dish'll get ya, for sure!

  3. Great recipe. I'll give this a try this weekend.

  4. S-L, let me know how you like it. i'm making it again tomorrow for a bbq-- hope it gets good reviews!