365 Challenge: Zucchini Gratin
The team at Murdoch Books came up with this excellent idea to cook the entire list of recipes in ’Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat’. I found out about this challenge in April when I packed up the last of my kitchen appliances into the multitude of boxes which were destined for a long, arduous journey back home to Melbourne. I took the risk and went ahead to join the challenge in good faith that I would have found a home and got my kitchen appliances back. That was in April. I’ve found a perfect apartment, but guess what? The boxes with my kitchen treasures have only just arrived last Friday and with the weekend unpacking, I’m so glad I picked a simple sounding recipe to start this challenge off!
Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable – or fruit if you want to go all technical on me. Its mild flavour is great both with full, robust dishes or simple, clean ones. A couple of my favourite zucchini dishes include Japanese style zucchini tempura and mediterranean grilled zucchini salad. Mmmmm….
I have never tried making a zucchini gratin. When I received the recipe, my first reaction was “Yippee!!” because it seemed ultra simple with a tiny list of ingredients. Then I realised there’s no bread crumbs, no cheese, , no cream, no egg, no butter – basically nothing to form a baked crust. I always thought a gratin requires a crusty, rich crust similar to those of a gratin dauphinois. Maybe I just expected a recipe from Stephane Reynaud to come packed full of fat and flavour.
I was dubious. I didn’t think this recipe was going to impress me. Rounds of zucchini and onions, lemon thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Really? That sounded too healthy. However I gave it a shot and you won’t believe how simple the preparation was and how much easier it was to cook it.
Vertically layer the vegetables tightly, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle the seasoning and herbs (I used dried herbs instead of fresh), chuck in the oven (150 deg c) for 15 minutes. That simple. No kidding.
I left it in the oven for five extra minutes as I wanted the top of the dish to caramelise more and have delicious brown bits. (Maybe I can’t let go of a gratin not having a crust!) The recipe indicated that the veggies should still be al dente.
I served the zucchini gratin with a simple pan-fried chicken maryland with fennel and coriander. The simple, clean flavours of the zucchini gratin complemented the dish and it was surprisingly delicious! The herbs enhanced the natural sweetness of the al dente vegetables. It makes for a fantastic side dish. So simple, so delicious and so, so easy to prepare. I’m sorry I ever doubted the recipe and I will definitely cook this again.
For more information about the 365 challenge and to read about other blogger’s attempts at the recipes, visit the Murdoch Books Blog here.