For me, serving a variety of vegetables is the spice of life. I can always sauté zucchini with a little onion and garlic and call that the veggie side for a dinner. But other times I really like finding new and different ways to make vegetables. Hence this recipe. Some people don’t like Ina Garten. I don’t really understand why, because every dish I’ve tried of hers has turned out very well. Agreed, the woman has made millions with her TV Food Network show, and her cookbooks, but I have concluded that she is a great cook. My friend Linda gave me Ina’s book Barefoot in Paris. This recipe comes from that book, and I’ve made this about 5 times in recent months.
What I really like about the dish – other than the fabulous taste – is that you only dirty up two pans to make it. Even though you may think a gratin might be complicated, you make it in a large sauté pan and pour it into a baking dish, so this absolutely is NOT complex or difficult. I guarantee it. So, here are the stages:
1. You can do the slicing by hand, but this is what I do. First I dug out my Oxo mandoline. I may only use this every two weeks, but when I do I fall in love with it all over again. It makes slicing so incredibly easy.
2. I sliced up the onion and got that cooking in my large sauté pan. Meanwhile, I sliced up all the beautiful farmstand zucchini I bought a few hours before. It took me about 5 minutes total to slice everything. Then I added that to the pan and cooked it for a short time.
3. Then I add the flour, salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg to the pan, then the hot milk and in a jiffy you have the thickened dish ready to go. You pour the whole thing into a large baking dish.
4. Do you know Panko? I’d heard of it, but never bothered to buy it. I said – gee, it’s just bread crumbs, right? That was until a few years ago when a cooking instructor served it on a
chicken dish, and I was amazed at how good it was. It’s not that the Panko crumbs have a lot of taste. They don’t, because they’re simply a bread product, a Japanese bread product to be specific, chopped up very fine. But, it stays crispy throughout the cooking, so there is something they do differently to make it act like that. That’s what’s so unique about Panko, and I use it regularly now. Trader Joe’s carries it under their own label (see package picture below); otherwise most major grocery stores also have it, usually in the Asian food section. So you mix the Panko with grated Gruyere or Parmesan (I have always used the latter), sprinkle it on top, bake and you’re done.
The casserole will sit for awhile waiting to be baked, or you can refrigerate it earlier in the day too. It’s a very forgiving recipe in all respects. Less zucchini? No problem. Not much cheese? No problem. Only have fat-free milk? No problem. You have yellow squash instead? No problem. You get the drift.
Our friends, Bud & Cherrie (my cohort in crime at many cooking classes) came for dinner last night, and the amount I made should have served at least 6 people. Hmmm. Guess what? We four slicked it up clean. You need to try this recipe; you’ll be very glad you did.
Recipe: Barefoot Contessa in Paris by Ina Garten
NOTES: Ina Garten’s recipe calls for 2 tsp. of Kosher salt, but I tested it first using less, and thought it was fine, so have reduced the recipe by 1/2 teaspoon. Taste it before you decide for yourself. I also use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese if I don’t have Gruyere on hand. This can be made ahead and refrigerated, then reheated later. The baking time is very forgiving – if the dish is sharing the oven at 350°, it will be just fine, just bake a little longer. I much prefer using Panko crumbs as they stay nice and crunchy throughout the baking time.
6 tablespoons butter
1 pound yellow onions — cut in half, then sliced
2 pounds zucchini — sliced 1/4″ thick
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg — freshly ground
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk — hot
3/4 cup bread crumbs — or Panko crumbs
3/4 cup Gruyere cheese — or Parmesan, grated
1 tablespoon butter
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Melt butter in a very large (12 inch) sauté pan and cook the onions over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until tender, but not browned. Add the zucchini and cook, covered, for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Stir in the flour until you no longer see any dry bits of flour, then add the hot milk and cook over low heat for a few minutes until it makes a sauce. Pour the mixture into an 8×10 baking dish.
3. Combine the bread crumbs or panko and cheese together in a small bowl, then sprinkle on top of the zucchini mixture. Dot the 1 tablespoon of butter cut into very small bits and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.
Serving Ideas : This could be a main dish for a vegetarian meal. You could also add a little bit of goat cheese to the mixture before baking.
Per Serving: 232 Calories; 15g Fat (57.3% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 42mg Cholesterol; 596mg Sodium.