I am currently reading Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously a true tale of a woman who blogged her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When I bought it I actually expected to be so inspired that I also bought a copy of Julia Child’s masterpiece at the same time. It is a cookbook I have been meaning to add to my collection anyways. Funny thing about it though – I am enjoying the book but it is more of a humorous tale of failures then an inspiring tale of success – I have yet to be inspired to cook a Julia Child dish at all. However I have noticed that the way Julie feels about Julia is the way I feel about Marcella. All weekend at the cabin I kept picking up Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, reading a bit and then putting it down. I don’t have any witty play on words about my name and hers but reading her book makes me giggle, sigh and lust after food. Plus since Marcella references Julia in her writing I must be getting some of the influence right?
It was this experience that led me to Zucchine Gratinate. This is extremely similar to the French dish ratatouille, at least certainly the version my Mum used to make since my Dad was far too picky to eat eggplant, and even left out the peppers too. In fact the flavours are so similar that I am sure that one must have been inspired from the other many years ago, not that I want to dive into that debate.
I really liked this dish. The way the zucchini is cooked it really retains a lot of texture unlike ratatouille which is more goulash like. I made it with cheapo canned tomatoes rather then the fancy San Marzano as this is all I had, but it was really good. In the middle stage where the tomatoes are done but not yet mixed with the zucchini it has a flavor very similar to that of the fabulous Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion.
If this dish wasn’t good enough it gave me a chance to use some of the fresh herbs I had just planted. Fresh Parsley and Italian Oregano. I have never been entirely sure of the difference between oregano and marjoram. In fact the seedling I bought was named Italian Oregano and had in fine print sometimes called Hardy Marjoram. Certainly that clears it all up. According to Marcella they are cousins but marjoram loses it’s flavour when dried. So I did a little more reading and it turns out what I bought is actually a cross between marjoram and oregano. Also that oregano is a wild form of marjoram. Hmm. Well, it certainly was nice in this – much nicer then I think the dried would have been – it gave a very subtle flavor. And hey, have you ever seen such huge Italian parsley leaves? This is also my entry into this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging which is hosted by Glenna of A Fridge Full of Food. Lucky her, I always seem to have a fridge full of molding things.
I have modified the recipe slightly, I increased the amount of tomatoes and decreased that of the zucchini. Also if you do use the cheap tomatoes, reserve but don’t use unless necessary, at least half of their liquid. I find it just gets to liquidy otherwise.
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
3 small zucchini, scrubbed clean
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 large canned tomatoes, cut up in their juice
1/4 teaspoon marjoram, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan, freshly grated
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut the zucchini into very thin rounds about 2mm thick.
3. Put the 2T olive oil and the all the garlic into a saute pan and turn on to medium heat. Add all the zucchini slices as soon as the olive oil is hot – don’t let the garlic brown. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until all the zucchini are limp. Turn off the heat and set pan aside.
4. In a small saucepan put in the remaining oil and the onion on medium heat. Cook until the onion becomes transparent. Add the tomatoes and marjoram. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tomatoes and the oil separate. Off the heat stir in the parsley and adjust for seasoning you will likely need at least a few pinches of salt. Remember the zucchini isn’t salted and you will soon be adding them together so you don’t want to under salt it.
5. In a bake and serve dish add a little bit of the tomato sauce to the bottom of the pan about a 1T. Spread half the zucchini in an even layer and cover with half of the tomato sauce and half of the Parmesan. Repeat the layering again ending with the cheese.
6. Place the dish in the top of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to settle for 10 minutes before serving.[/print_this]