On Wednesday, I received notification that I am featured on Rachael Ray’s website as “Cook of the Week”. It’s always an honor to receive a nod, but when the nod comes from Rachael Ray, well, that’s pretty much the coolest thing ever! Here is the link:
This is also a good time to insert a plug to follow The Sparkle Kitchen on Instagram, which is where Rachael Ray picked up the images. Now that I’m completely star-struck with myself, let me get back to the kitchen and back to this delicious, slightly spicy zucchini au gratin. It’s a more Mediterranean-flavored take on the French potato classic side dish. This one has feta, sharp cheddar, and cracked red pepper, in addition to the cream and nutmeg flavors called for in the classic potato recipe:
On Thursday, I served my family this recipe for Zucchini Au Gratin for dinner. Having a dinner party, even just for a couple of people, takes a lot of time. This can be a challenge to pull off on a weeknight, especially when I had been working on a demanding project all week. Recipes like this one are easy to divide into distinct parts. I cooked the zucchini first, before leaving for work on Thursday morning. When I came home from work, I only had to make the sauce and then pop it in the oven for half an hour, leaving me that thirty minute window to work on a quick appetizer plate (with Dubliner cheese, hummus, roasted nuts, and bagel chips):
And to toss together a salad with spinach, cherries, avocado, sugar snap peas, and chevre, in a balsamic-italian dressing with a squeeze of fresh orange over the top:
An extra half hour doesn’t sound like anything to get excited over, but when you’re limited to about one hour of prep time after work before guests arrive, it makes a huge difference in your day. Unfortunately, I rarely sacrifice the food when I get pressed for time and end up serving a meal with a dinner-covered outfit on and crazy hair. But I’m sure that just makes me more endearing.
Zucchini Au Gratin
You will need:
- 3 medium-large zucchini, washed and grated
- 1 large vidalia or other sweet onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp. butter
- 1 cup cream or half-and-half
- 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. each nutmeg, salt, dried parsley, oregano, and pepper
- 2 tsp. cracked red pepper
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- 3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (optional)
- On medium heat, saute the zucchini and onion in the 1 tbsp. olive oil, and salt and pepper (to taste) until the vegetables become slightly transparent.
- If you’re planning a dinner party, do this step the night before or the morning of to cut fifteen minutes or so out of your total prep work. I did mine the morning of before I left for work.
- Preheat the oven to 350 and grease eight mini ramekins or a large casserole dish.
- In a saucepan on medium-low heat, stir together the butter, cream, and flour until heated through, then add in remaining spices.
- In a large bowl, stir the feta, cheddar, and bread crumbs (if using) together and add in the zucchini mixture.
- Add the zucchini mixture first to the baking dish of your choice, then top with the sauce portion.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until bubbly and browned.
Some of us get a little too worked up when guests come over for dinner and wear themselves out within ten minutes of going completely insane. They then can’t keep their eyes open for dinner. Poor little buddy.