Zucchini or courgettes – call them what you like, but every year it’s the same: I know that a small family only needs one plant to last them for the whole of summer, but I sow 6 seeds and end up with 5-6 overzealous zucchini plants. This typically results in a rather large amount of zucchinis being produced every week, and me scrambling to find creative ways to cook them all. This is a challenging task, given that Mr 5 does not like zucchini, and he takes every opportunity to let me (and anyone else in earshot) know this fact.
This summer I seem to have two different types of plants thriving in the ‘patch. One variety is producing slender gold zucchini (possibly the standard ‘Gold Rush’ variety?), and the other I can identify as ‘Zephyr‘, from Kings Seeds. I adore the Zephyr variety as the tips look like they’ve been dipped in green ink.
I do have some secret recipes up my sleeve to deal with these wonderful over-producing plants. In fact, there’s one stand-out meal that has become a summer staple in our household: baked zucchini, tomato and rice gratin. The best thing about this dish is that *everyone* in our family eats it – and perhaps more importantly, enjoys it! The following recipe is great for incorporating those hidden beauties that have turned into marrows, but it’s also brilliant for using up a clutch of tomatoes, and eggs.
About 1 cup of long-grain white rice
3-4 (or more) zucchini, sliced
A few tablespoons of olive oil
A good handful of tomatoes, sliced in half
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat your oven to 230°C, and prepare two roasting dishes for the tomatoes and zucchini to go into.
Cook the rice. While it cooks, toss zucchini with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in one of the roasting dishes. Toss the tomatoes with 1/2 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the other.
Roast the zucchini and tomatoes in the oven together, turning them once halfway through until they’re tender and light golden in colour. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes for tomatoes and 20 minutes for the zucchini. Once they’re cooked, remove them from the oven, but leave the oven on.
Meanwhile, cook the onion and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt in 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan, until very tender.
Once the onion mixture has cooked and softened, stir it together with the cooked rice, eggs, thyme, 1/4 cup cheese, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread half of the rice mixture in a shallow baking dish, then top it with half of the roasted zucchini. Spread the remaining rice mixture over the zucchini layer, then top it with the remaining zucchini. Finally, top this layer with the roasted tomatoes and drizzle a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.
Bake in the upper part of your oven until it is golden brown in colour – about 20 minutes in total.
Devour and enjoy!
PS. Did you know that the collective noun for a group of zucchinis is a zander? It must be true, Wikipedia says so.