It is an unwritten rule in our house that I, Mom, sleep late on Saturday mornings, and my husband rises early with our daughter. When we were on vacation, however, our schedule was thrown off. My husband and I took turns getting up with her each day, allowing the other the luxury of sleeping past 7am. With this schedule of alternating mornings it meant that last Saturday was my turn to get up early. Which is how I came to find myself pushing a stroller into the Tisbury Farmers' Market at the crack of dawn.
It was on that morning, in my groggy state, I realized zucchini season has started in earnest. I couldn't believe the varieties available, and, since it is one of my most favorite vegetables, I ended up bringing home a bag heavier than my own child.
For the remainder of the day I contemplated the different possibilities of what to make with my farmers' market haul. I wanted to create a dish that would draw out the sweet flavors of the zucchini, and perhaps add some of the gorgeous early tomatoes I had on hand. As luck would have it, during my daughter's naptime, I was enjoying my latest issue of Edible Vineyard and discovered a recipe for layered tomatoes and zucchini. It was exactly the inspiration I was looking for, I couldn't wait to get started.
I consider this dish Sunday Dinner Series material because the preparation was time consuming, and the recipe yielded enough food to feed us for several days. I didn't mind how long it took though, the final dish was full of the mouth-watering flavors that only appear when cooking with fresh, seasonal vegetables. I loved the way the nutty breadcrumb mixture added a subtle crunch to the vegetables, which had been softened from the baking.
When it came time for dinner I decided to pair the casserole with roasted local sausages, unintentionally making it a true "locavore" meal. Everyone remarked that the flavors of the savory meat and sweet vegetables played off each other beautifully. I made a mental note that the menu definitely bears repeating this summer. It also made me think I should start waking up earlier on Saturday mornings. Who knows where I could end up next.
Naptime's Baked Zucchini and Tomatoes, with Roasted Sausage
adapted from Edible Vineyard June/July 2009
For Bread Crumb Mixture:
3 T. toasted pine nuts, roughly chopped
3/4 c. unflavored breadcrumbs
3/4 c. grated Parmigiano cheese
For the Vegetables:
8 T. good olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and very finely sliced
1 red pepper, cored and thinly sliced
3/4 lb. medium tomatoes, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced
3 T. sundried tomatoes, finely chopped
Salt to taste
For the Dressing:
2 t. balsamic vinegar
2 t. honey
1 T. fresh mint, chopped
1 T. fresh basil, chopped
Salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat a shallow 2-quart baking dish with olive oil.
2. In a small bowl mix breadcrumbs, cheese and chopped pine nuts. Add 2 t. olive oil and mix well. Set aside.
3. In skillet heat 2 T. olive oil, add the onions and peppers and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the peppers and onions are wilted browned. Remove from heat and cool.
4. Spread the pepper/onion mixture onto the bottom of the pan, making sure it coats the pan evening in one layer. On top of this spread the finely chopped sundried tomatoes and 1/2 of the mint/basil herb mixture.
5. In a separate bowl whisk together the vinegar, honey, 1 T. olive oil, remaining herbs and a pinch of salt. Add the sliced zucchini slices and toss to coat.
6. To assemble to the tomato and zucchini slice proceed as follows: At one of the baking dish start arranged alternate rows of zucchini slices and tomato slices, slightly overlapping each other. Every time you finish a row sprinkle some of the breadcrumb mixture over it. Then proceed with the next row. I was able to make three rows of zucchini and two rows of zucchini in my dish, which is about how much you will have too.
7. Once the rows are complete, sprinkle the vegetables with the remaining olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Then sprinkle the remaining bread mixture over it all.
8. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.
4 links fresh sausage (chicken or pork sausages work fine with this)
1. Brush each sausage with olive oil and sprinkle with a little fresh rosemary if desired.
2. Place sausages in a shallow baking dish.
3. Place in oven for the last 20 minutes with the casserole.
4. Plate vegetables and sausage together. Serve.
Naptime Recipe Props: Any way to use fresh produce is always welcome in my house. I love this dish because it makes the most of the vegetables flavors, without being overly complicated. Feel free to serve this with chicken, steak, or even on it's own.
Naptime Notes: The total preparation for this dish is almost 2 hours. I saved time at night by pre-chopping the vegetables during my daughter's naptime.
Naptime Reviews: We are all fans of roasted vegetables, which is why this dish was such a hit. My daughter especially loved the roasted zucchini.