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This is the time of the year when many gardeners are giving away there excess tomatoes and zucchini to anyone who will have them. I’m sure we all have gone into work in the morning and seen bags of zucchini and tomatoes on the tables begging for you to take them home.
Try a French gratin
Most of us probably have a refrigerator drawer filled to the brim with garden zucchini.
Instead of the usual ways to cook up the zucchini, why not try a French gratin with grated zucchini, spinach, onions sautéed with bacon and garlic, all tossed together with a few eggs and topped with Parmesan cheese and then baked until golden brown. You may never cook zucchini any other way again.
It may have something to do with the bacon, or maybe the Parmesan, or maybe the onions and garlic. Whatever it is, the combination is perfect. The best part is the recipe uses two whole pounds of zucchini.
Tomatoes make for a great pie
The first time I heard of a tomato pie, I must admit I had no idea what it could be. I thought about a cherry pie and just substituted tomatoes for the cherries. It just didn’t paint a pretty picture for me.
For this recipe, think cheesy bread and pizza. The combination of cooked tomatoes, onions, fresh basil and grated cheese baked in a pie crust is a flavor sensation you’ll want to experience time and again.
The recipe is quite easy and you don’t have to be exact in your measurements. A handful of this, a handful of that…and it would still work out. Try different cheeses and spices. Use a homemade pie crust or a good quality prepared crust…either works fine.
French Gratin with Zucchini, Spinach, Bacon and Parmesan
The blending of the cooked bacon and onions along with the spinach and Parmesan cheese with the zucchini is a perfect combination of flavors. The recipe looks more involved than it is, but most of the time is in the baking and allowing the zucchini and spinach to drain excess moisture.
2 pounds zucchini
Sea salt, grinder-type
1 pound frozen spinach
3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed parsley leaves
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs, mixed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Grate the zucchini and then toss with about a teaspoon of ground sea salt. Place the grated zucchini in a large sieve (or colander) placed over a bowl to catch the water, as the salt helps the zucchini to release its moisture. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, and then squeeze out the remaining excess moisture with paper towels.
Thaw the spinach and let drain, and then squeeze out the excess moisture with paper towels.
Over medium heat, heat a large skillet. Add the chopped bacon and cook until lightly browned and most of the fat is rendered out, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped onions and cook an additional 10 minutes until the onions are translucent.
Place the parsley and garlic into a food processor, along with a pinch of salt. Pulse a couple of times.
Place the zucchini into a large bowl and mix in the cooked onions and bacon. Add the spinach, parsley and garlic. Add half of the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the egg mixture and toss until blended.
Coat the bottom and sides of a two-quart casserole or gratin dish with olive oil. Place the zucchini/spinach mixture into the dish and pack it down. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese; drizzle with a little olive oil.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is evenly browned. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.
Tomato Pie with Fresh Basil and Grated Cheese
To kick it up a notch, caramelize the onions while prepping the other ingredients. Be sure to double the amount of onions, though.
1 9-inch pie shell
1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped
4 medium tomatoes
1/4 cup chiffonade of basil
2 cups grated cheese (combo of sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gruyere or Mozzarella)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. hot sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pie shell in the oven and cook about 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Cut tomatoes in half horizontally and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Roughly chop to yield about 3 cups chopped tomatoes.
Sprinkle the bottom of the pre-cooked pie shell with chopped onion. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions and then sprinkle the sliced basil over the top.
In a medium bowl, mix the grated cheese, mayonnaise and hot sauce. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper (mixture should be the consistency of a gooey snow ball). Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.
Place pie in the oven and bake until browned and bubbly, about 30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.
Quick and Easy Ratatouille
This is a great way to use up those extra tomatoes, zucchini and eggplants. Use any combination and amounts you want, depending on what you have. Serve as a side or a topping for pasta.
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 cups sliced zucchini
1-2 green peppers, chunked
2 large onions, peeled and chunked
4 stalks celery, diagonally sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 fresh tomatoes, chunked
1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients, except parsley, in a large pot or skillet. Cover and cook over low heat about 20 minutes. Remove cover and add parsley and continue to cook another 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring to prevent scorching. Serve hot.