Tomato & Zucchini Gratin

by Matt on August 14, 2008


I'm really loving these weekly recipe get-togethers organized by Dinner Tonight.  It's so nice to pick an ingredient and see what people come up with and it makes me feel like I'm attending some virtual potluck. Very cool.

This week's challenge was tomatoes, and if you're a reader of Mattbites you'll know that I tend to go overboard during summer when it comes to these things. I was going for a bit of restraint this year. Yea yea I know, restraint and me don't really get along. I'm trying.

While looking for recipes for this week I kept getting drawn back to old cookbook from the 50s and 60s that I have in my collection. It seemed that baked and broiled tomatoes were all the rage but thinking of putting a beautiful heirloom into the oven and baking it until soft and mushy seemed to border on blasphemy. Oh no! At the same time I cannot count the number of tomatoes I've eaten raw since June. I needed something different, something that was hearty enough to be a side or main dish.

This recipe, a tomato and zucchini gratin, seems to be the most basic thing ever. In fact, I made it from a conversation with Adam who actually created the same dish a few weeks ago during a packaging shoot. And it's right up my alley — a few ingredients, cheese, substantial enough to be an easy supper, and cheese. Did I say that already?

And in my homage to Time-Life Books of yesteryear I photographed my gratin to reflect a look that seems to be making its way back into popularity. And you wanna know what else I did? I ate the entire damn thing.

Tomato & Zucchini Gratin
Folks, don't hate me. I'm not including exact measurements again because 1) I'm not a recipe writer and 2) my recipe and food writer friends will inevitably pick it apart and show me the errors of my ways.  So I give you a very loose interpretation. And besides, it's not like it's a cake or a dozen scones. Add a little of this, a little of that…it'll be ok. Trust me.

You'll need:
roma tomatoes
an onion
a few zucchini
grated cheese (I had Pecorino on hand from a photo shoot but almost any hard cheese could work)
some olive oil
some herbs

Chop the onion and saute until translucent. Next slice roma tomatoes and zucchini into evenly thin slices and layer in a pan or baking dish. I oiled mine because I wasn't quite sure if things would stick, but it's not necessary. Layer the tomatoes, zucchini and sauteed onions and top with a bit of cheese, repeating until you've reached the top of the dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350˚ for 20-30 minutes. After that you'll want to top with a final layer of grated cheese and bake for another 8-10 minutes, uncovered, until cheese melts. I cheated a bit by putting on way more cheese and broiling it for 2 minutes so I'd have a nice color for the photo, but you can certainly do that as well. After cooking I topped with some chopped herbs, let it cool for about 30 minutes and dug in. It was fantastic.

There are quite a few recipes online for tomato gratins. Feel free to look for them if you are the type that needs exact measurements. You certainly will not hurt my feelings!

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter G August 14, 2008 at 6:30 am

Yum!…Sounds delicious and certainly looks it too. Have you used flash for this and upped the saturation and contrast? Just curious…cheers.

matt August 14, 2008 at 6:45 am

Hello Peter!

I used one strobe head without any modifier (softbox, umbrella, etc) and upped both saturation and contrast by 5%. It’s actually pretty close to the original image.

panza llena August 14, 2008 at 8:21 am

is it weird that i am now craving this for breakfast? it looks fantastic!!

Schaefer August 14, 2008 at 8:58 am

Great stuff. I certainly won’t complain about not having a precise recipe.

Dayna August 14, 2008 at 9:14 am

Very slick. Very retro.

Very jealous – I still don’t have a summer abundance of tomatoes.

Monique August 14, 2008 at 10:00 am

When I was reading that you had visited cookbooks of yesteryear it occurred to me how your photo reminded me of those old ’50s cookbooks. I then read down a paragraph further to discover that was your intent! Bravo- you obviously nailed it!

I’ll add that I have you in my Google Reader so I can check out your gorgeous photography whenever you post! Thanks for sharing.

Fran_Magbual August 14, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I like the way you cook. Stuff like this shouldn’t have exact measurements anyway! Looks great too.

tulip August 14, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Matt the thing that makes me know that you are a GREAT food photographer is that everytime I see a picture of food on your site I say YUM! Before I even know what it is even!
This actually sounds super good to me and I think it will be dinner tomorrow night. Paired with a nice cool white wine and some super crusty bread. YUM!

tulip August 14, 2008 at 5:33 pm

“Before I even know what it is even!”

Which makes me sound like Snagglepuss!

Mari August 15, 2008 at 3:45 am

Loving the Time-Life homage…

Helen August 15, 2008 at 4:29 am

Beautifully and gorgeously simple Matt. I too have eaten a huge glut of raw tomatoes and am looking for something different although my oven spontaneously stopped working yesterday so I may have to wait a while. Ohh, BBQ!

xoBeau August 15, 2008 at 6:19 am

Great shot! and it looks so yummy!

Hillary August 15, 2008 at 10:10 am

I like the whole idea of Dinner Tonight too. Thanks for telling us all about it. And your gratin…damnnnn that looks good!

Olga August 16, 2008 at 11:01 am

Lovely picture. I write my recipes the exactly same way and often eat the whole thing myself ;)

Giff August 16, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Love it, and great picture. I think the Time Life good cook series was fantastic – Richard Olney was the *man*.

sfm August 17, 2008 at 12:16 pm

Looks delicious!

I don’t hesitate to cook my heirlooms, though – especially when I have a lot of them. They’re delicious raw, but roasted &/or cooked down into a sauce? Amazing. It takes a while w/the juicy ones, but I find you get a sweetness & flavor that you just don’t get with romas or other paste tomatoes. (Plus, roasting is a good way to use up those big overripe ones that have sat on the counter a bit too long… you know, the Drosophila hotels?)

neil August 17, 2008 at 9:49 pm

I so wish Time-Life would do some sorta new series. There was no doubt they had the most wonderful writers and the best photographers of the day and Matt, I reckon they would have snagged you for sure. They made food so lyrical and well presented that one can’t put their books down. The greatest testament is that I still use them on a regular basis. Konneman’s fairly recent Culinaria series is no doubt based on Foods of the World and while the photos are good the books suffer from being somewhat superficial in comparison.

kitchenbeard August 18, 2008 at 1:19 pm

This past week end I breezed through this post and paused to consider my collection of Time Life books (spiral bound editions) and then spent the next 3 hours leafing through them instead of editing the portraits I took that morning. I am now behind schedule and yet totally mentally jazzed. Thank you.

Uncle Beefy August 18, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Ring, ring…..ring, ring….

“Hi Barbara, it’s Joyce! What are y’up to?”

“Oh, hi there, Joyce. Oh nothing really…the kids are over at Francine’s watching “Howdy Doody” with her tribe. And, I’m just flipping through my Better Homes & Gardens while enjoying a Lucky Strike. You?”

“Oh, just the same ole pickle…what’s for dinner? Don’s out of town, so it’s just me and the kids. I can’t see spending Don’s hard-earned money on steak for the children. Any thoughts?”

“Well, Joyce, if you want my honest opinion I’d transport yourself to the future. Send those kids off to bed with some Ambien and a little vodka tonic. Then whip up some easy and delicious Tomato & Zucchini Gratin from Matt Bites.”

“Sounds delicious! But, what’s Ambien?”

“Oh, it IS delicious! What’s Ambien? Darling! It’s a mother’s best friend!”

(They both laugh.)

Okay…sorry, Matt. But that photo got my mind racing. So retro looking! And the dish does sound mighty tasty! Too bad one member of this household hates zucchini! :( (Um, not me, by the way.)

Miriam Leigh August 18, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Matt – You probably need a little salt and pepper in this recipe, no?

Robert August 19, 2008 at 1:59 pm

Lovely image—and it’s looks wonderfully delicious. I’m making tonight. I haven’t commented in a while—I hope you are well.

Christie @ fig&cherry August 20, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Great shot Matt! LOVE flexible recipes too.

Christie @ fig&cherry August 20, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Great shot Matt! LOVE flexible recipes too.

Christie @ fig&cherry August 20, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Great shot Matt! LOVE flexible recipes too.

diva August 20, 2008 at 10:23 pm

looks fantastic!beautiful photograph and not just that – i bet it tasted wicked.

Ellen + Greg August 21, 2008 at 5:14 am

made this monday. was well received by our guests. served with ken forrester sauvignon blanc (south africa)!

sarah August 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm

such a lovely picture!! you are so talented in photography and cookery as well!!! thanks for sharing your talent, we are all so fortunate!

Sophie August 25, 2008 at 1:19 am

Hi Matt, found your blog few months ago and was delighted to say the least! Hilarious writing, keeps me entertained, thank you very much, also soon after I found your blog I see you got married, so congrats!!! Ok non meat eater here so this recipe looks mouth watering good, must try it out tonight, take a photo and then proceed to EAT the gratin with a garlic baguette and leafy green salad …my type of simple recipe indeed! Keep up the awesome blog and best wishes with your new studio! You are adorable and inspiring!

colleen August 31, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I made this last night for dinner, but used white cheddar with sun dried tomatoes and basil. It was the only cheese we had. So good….

mary July 9, 2010 at 7:42 am

Yum! I made this, also added some kalamata olives and basil. Love it!

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