Serves 4 - 6
I find that cooked zucchini is usually watery and tasteless unless you extract all of
its water before cooking. This recipe concentrates the flavor of the zucchini by
first removing most of its water, then baking the zucchini slices in a casserole smothered
with a thick tomato sauce, in a modified ragoût style. It's a perfect vegetable
accompaniment to sausages, steaks grilled on the BBQ or a rack of lamb. It can also
be served cold as a vegetable salad or spread on toasted baguette slices, in a French
version of an Italian bruschetta.
|Preparing the Zucchini:
- Slice 6 medium-sized zucchini into thin slices.
- Place the slices in a large non-aluminum colander and salt liberally, shaking the slices
to distribute the salt evenly.
- Place the colander in the sink or on a deep plate to catch the water which the salt will
extract. Let the salted zucchini slices sit for 30 - 60 minutes.
- Rinse off the salt thoroughly, then extract the remaining water by squeezing
small handfuls of the zucchini. Fluff them up with your fingers to separate the
slices. Makes 4 cups.
- Gently sauté the dewatered zucchini in oil olive over low heat in a large flat-bottomed
frying pan for about 15 minutes, until the slices become translucent. Don't let them brown
and don't stir too much to prevent mashing the delicate slices. Set aside until
ready for final assembly and baking.
Thin slices of zucchini become translucent
and supple after dewatering.
(This recipe could be simplified by starting with Pomi brand tomatoes in a
and picking up the recipe at the second step.)
- Roast about 12 Roma tomatoes using the technique described in the Roasted
Roma Tomato Tarte recipe.
- After roasting, puree in a food processor (include any roasting juices that remain on
the parchment paper). This should yield about 2 cups. (No need to de-seed the tomatoes.
Romas have too few seeds to worry about.)
- Cook the tomato puree in 3 TBS olive oil in a deep sauce pan,
stirring frequently, until reduced to 1 1/3 cups.
- Season with a large pinch of Herbes de Provence, freshly ground pepper and 3 TBS white wine vinegar.
Final Assembly and Baking:
Thin slices: It is easier to get uniformly thin slices using a mandolin
and not so easy to do by hand. I use the thinnest setting on my mandolin.
- Mix the sautéed zucchini with the thick tomato sauce. Taste for
- Arrange in shallow casserole and lightly cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake in a 325° oven for 40 minutes.
Squeezing: For a more thorough job, you can wring out small batches using a dish towel. It's
important to get out as much water as possible at this stage, but be careful not to tear
or mash the zucchini slices.
- French-style tomato sauce: I call this "French-style" because it doesn't use any garlic and
it's seasoned with Herbes de Provence instead of the classic basil and oregano.
- Deep sauce pan: The tomato puree will be quite thick even before it is reduced. To
prevent it from spattering on your stove during reduction, use a deep sauce pan.
This is a secret ingredient in many successful sauces. Used in moderation,
vinegar can brighten the flavor of most sauces, bringing out the sauce's depth and
character. In a traditional ratatouille, red wine vinegar is a basic ingredient.
- Salt: If
you didn't rinse the zucchini well enough before dewatering, it could still be quite
salty. To avoid a common cooking error of cumulative salt, don't salt the sauce.
Add salt only after assembling the sauce with the zucchini and after tasting
carefully at this last stage.