I am always so intrigued by the adorable little baby zucchini I see in the farmers market, but I’ve never been sure about what to do with them that preserves their sweet size. I’ve cut them long ways and grilled the halves, but it always seems a shame to just slice them as you would a full size version. A few years ago, I read in a magazine about slow roasting these babies and I was dubious but willing to try. And it’s a doozy – a totally different experience from those crisp grilled or sautéed rounds or the casserole route. The whole zucchini become meltingly tender and sweet, and the aromatic vegetable ragout underneath gently flavors them and adds a lovely topping. I love the bright bight of fennel that adds a lovely sort of Mediterranean touch with a hint of oregano.
Look for the baby zucchini – about 4 inches long and an inch around. 1 zucchini with some vegetables spooned over the top will serve a person as a perfect side to a summer meal. Create a thin bed of fennel and shallot, not to deep but the zucchini shouldn’t touch the bottom of the pan.
Slow Roasted Zucchini
1 small bulb of fennel, very thinly sliced (or ½ of a small bulb)
1 shallot, very thinly sliced
4 ounces of small cherry tomatoes
4 – 5 stalks of oregano
½ cup vermouth
2 Tablespoons olive oil
5- 6 small zucchini, about 4 inches long
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°. Pour 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over the bottom of a 2-quart baking dish – the zucchini should fit without touching each other. Spread the fennel and shallots in a layer on the dish and add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Toss around with your hands to coat with the oil, then spread in a thin layer. Prick the zucchini all over with a thin, sharp knife, then place the on top, tuck the oregano sprigs around the zucchini, pour over the vermouth and then drizzle over the remaining 1 Tablespoon oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Cover the dish tightly with foil and roast for 1 ½ – 2 hours, carefully turning the zucchini over half way through cooking, until the zucchini is very soft. Remove the foil and cook for a further five minutes.
To serve, gently place a zucchini on a plate and spoon over some of the fennel, shallots and tomatoes.
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