It’s no secret that I love the farmers market. My Saturday morning trips followed by a day of canning or putting things by, are the highlight of my week. I am so inspired by all the produce and the people who love food. And I have found it is an amazing source of advice and ideas, from farmers and customers alike. I cannot count the number of times I have been standing at a booth, ogling the farm-fresh beauty, when a conversation starts about the best ways to make use of the produce. Farmers always have great ideas and, of course, know their stuff, but once you start talking recipes, other people are bound to join in. That’s where this recipe comes from. I was eyeing some gorgeous zucchini, and asking the farmer for some ideas on how to use it when she started reeling off onions in butter, sliced tomatoes, a little sugar. Another customer chimed in with the oregano, and yet another talked about making with all overlapped slices – and that she had a casserole dish that she thought of as her zucchini dish because she makes this so often in the summer. A further discussion ensued about sliced verses cubed versus wedged. Clearly, this is a recipe a lot of people know, but the first time I ever came across it was that day at the market. I scribbled down some notes (on an egg carton because that’s all I had), picked up a basket of zucchini and went to work.
My conclusions are the result of experimentation and all that advice and discussion. I prefer wedges of zucchini and tomato because it’s attractive and a little bit different, and I think they retain a touch of firmness. I chop the onions instead of slicing, which makes the dish a little easier to eat and serve, and I use a generous amount of oregano from the garden instead of any dried version. The brilliance of this is that it is not messed about with. Fresh vegetables and herbs, a little bit of sugar to bring out the natural sweetness, and a small shower of parmesan cheese. No cream or breadcrumbs or unnecessary thick globs of heavy cheese. Just simple and beautiful and summer. Oh, and now I carry a notebook and pen in my market bag.
Baked Zucchini and Tomatoes
I truly recommend using a wedge of good Parmesan and grating it directly over the vegetables. It melds beautifully without overpowering. The pre-grated stuff doesn’t do that.
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 medium zucchini
2 medium firm tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 Tablespoons butter
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Pour the melted butter into a 1 ½ quart baking dish (square or rectangle is best) and swirl to cover the bottom. Spread the onions over the butter.
Slice the stems off the zucchini, then in half, trying to make each half about the length of the tomatoes. Cut each half into quarters. Cut each tomato into eight wedges. Arrange the zucchini wedges and the tomato wedges in rows on top of the onions in the baking dish. Evenly sprinkle the oregano over the vegetables.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the vegetables. Thinly slice the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and arrange over the vegetables. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The vegetables will have softened a little and released some juices, but will still be a bit firm. A knife should slide easily into a zucchini wedge. Sprinkle the cheese over the hot dish.
Serves 6 – 8