As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an amateur organic gardener with many good intentions and a very modest yield.
I give my little vegetable patch lots of love, but the veggies are very slow to grow, and although some of my friends have been boasting home-grown produce for weeks, I harvested my first few cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini just this week.
I love watching the plant in all its stages, and I’m especially fascinated to see how a fruit evolves from the flower. In the case of the zucchini, the beautiful golden flowers—both male and female—are edible and quite tasty, and can be eaten fresh, sprinkled into salads soups and pasta dishes, or cooked—stuffed zucchini flowers are a gorgeous delicacy.
One of my favorite zucchini recipies is for an easy gratin. I usually make this with only zucchini, but since I had so few—and I didn’t want to mix my precious zucchini with the store-bought ones—I combined my zucchini with super new potatoes from my local farmer’s market. I was very pleased with this combination, since the lightness of the zucchini and herbs is balanced with the earthiness and heartiness of the potatoes.
As you’ll see, this dish relies on fresh herbs for its explosion of flavor. The fresh herbs also pack lots of nutrition—they’re a powerhouse of phytochemicals and antioxidants, and a great addition to your healthy diet.
• 4-5 zucchini, peeled (if very fresh no need to peel) and cut to ¼-inch slices
• 8-10 small potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced (can be done with a mandoline or food processor)
• ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
For the sauce:
• 1 cup of mixed fresh herbs—tarragon, parsley, chives, oregano, thyme and basil are good options; be creative, but use more of the mild herbs, and less of the more potent oregano and thyme.
• 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 clove garlic
• A pinch of hot pepper flakes
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
• Prepare the sauce. If you have a food processor, pulse all ingredients to a course grind. Otherwise, chip all dry ingredients as finely as you can, and mix with the olive oil and spices.
• Mix all ingredients, taste the zucchini and correct the seasoning.
• Brush some olive oil on an oven-safe baking or gratin dish, and transfer the zucchini potato mix.
• Transfer to the oven, and bake for 60-80 minutes, until potatoes are well-softened. If the top darkens too much, and the potatoes aren’t yet soft, cover with tin foil and bake some more.
Serve immediately (will serve 8-10 diners as a side dish).