I am way, way too excited about this post. I’ve been dying to share this recipe with you for months now, but I figured I should wait until zucchini was in season. Even though, to be completely honest, I made it a few times over the winter with supermarket squash and tomatoes flown in from who knows where.
This is the kind of vegan recipe that makes my heart sing. Vegetables are simply yet thoughtfully prepared, and the resulting dish can stand on its own at the center of any meal. At its core, this dish is just a really beautiful, utterly delicious celebration of summer.
Have I sold you on it yet? Good!
The first step is to sauté an onion and some garlic in a glug of olive oil. They you’re going to mix in a big pinch of fresh thyme and a handful of basil. (Side note: I bought a basil plant a few weeks ago and it’s not dead yet! I totally have a black thumb, so I’m feeling very encouraged.) Spread the onion mixture into your baking dish.
Next up are the veggies. I used only zucchini and tomatoes this time, but yellow summer squash is a great addition, too. Cut them on the diagonal into ovals and toss with more olive oil and LOTS of salt and pepper. Then layer them in the dish. Don’t worry if you have to squish them to make everything fit. You can see my last row looks a little bit funny. I was a little disappointed, but hey, life’s not perfect. Cover the dish with foil and bake for half an hour.
At this point you can stop and take a break. I often prep the gratin though this step in the morning, and then finish it just before dinner.
The final step is to shower the whole thing with panko. You can add a little nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor. Or, for a not vegan version, add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Drizzle with more olive oil and bake until the topping is golden-brown. The juices from the veggies will help to thicken the panko into a wonderfully savory, crumble-like topping.
I usually serve this zucchini tomato gratin as a light entree with a big green salad and a baguette, but it also makes a delicious side with simple baked or grilled chicken or fish. It’s a really good option if some of your family members (me) want to eat vegan and others don’t (Alex). Leftovers are great for lunch too!
Vegan Zucchini Tomato Gratin
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion peeled, and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
- 6 plum tomatoes sliced crosswise on the diagonal into ovals
- 2 large zucchini sliced crosswise on the diagonal into ovals
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast optional or use 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened and translucent, but not brown. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir in the thyme and basil. Spread the onion mixture into the bottom of a baking dish with a 6 cup capacity (like an 8-x-8-inch square).
In a large bowl, toss the tomatoes and zucchini with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Alternate the vegetables vegetables in compact upright rows on top of the onion mixture. Cover the dish with foil and bake until the vegetables have softened, about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, toss the panko with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and nutritional yeast (or Parmesan), if using.
Remove the foil from the vegetable dish and sprinkle with the panko mixture. Return to the oven and bake until the panko is toasted and golden-brown, about 20 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.