Wholefood Cooking

Red Onion, Zucchini and Tomato Bake

Hello there !!

Here we are with another year come around. I have to say, after the trials of 2017 (shared it seems, by just about everybody else)  I’m quite happy about it. A wonderful chance to wipe the slate clean, reset ourselves and head of in the direction of where we want to go. For me ? I want a less crazy, let me live and eat a little more simply and more seasonally. And this is the vein in which we are starting out…..

If you happen to live in Australia, then you are almost bound to be over run with zucchini. Tis the season.They grow and double in size overnight, they are prolific, and they’re cheap (because there are so many of them!) and if you turn your back on them, they will take over. They are something I can grow, but also my little market garden stall is almost giving them away. Now beyond Zucchini Fritters (Wholefood for Children), Zucchini and Sultana Loaf (Wholefood for Children), stuffed zucchini and the ever brilliant Zucchini Slice (made famous by the Australian Womens Weekly, but to which I add heaps of other veggies), this bake is a super simple (meaning crazy easy and oh so quick) and wildly delicious option.If you are into raw zucchini noodles, then now is the time and place (not in the dead of winter) – now is their time to shine and zoodle like there’s no tomorrow. But, back to our bake… it’s a mish – mash of two things – Mum’s tomato pie (tomato, onion, breadcrumbs, dot butter on top) that we always had in summer with a roast, and the classic Tian of summer vegetables.

But, in truth the whole dish started when I discovered that the red onions I’d planted, and thought were not a great success, apparently got it all together and became big fat bulbs of oniony goodness. I also had a glut of tomatoes courtesy of my niece, and said zucchinis. When I cut into those onions, oh my they were just begging for a bit of heat so those sugars could caramelise up and become something quite stupendous.

So before I get to the recipe, there is one super important thing that makes the world of difference. The dish. A tian (a bit like a gratin) is all about the dish. It needs to be shallow – and classically shapes outward (this helps the juices reduce and become oh so good) you can see that clearly in the dish I used. But you need something that is going to get hot. I mean really hot. My preference is for cast iron, and failing that enamel coasted tin. What this does is caramelise the vegetables and the juices along the edges, which totally changes the flavour. So in a few words, if you can – shallow, sides flanging outwards, enamel coated tin or cast iron.

This would make a brilliant lunch with a green salad and some good cheese (goat preferably) if desired. Or perhaps a wonderful bean salad. It makes a great partner for a meat or fish main too. It begs for a glass of great reddish wine. It is totally not averse to pesto (Coming Home to Eat or Wholefood for Children), or a tapenade (I would suggest the Arame Tapenade from Wholefood From the Ground Up) – all in all it is a plant focused winner and workhorse. I hope you love it as much as I do….

I wish you a wonderful 2018, filled with good things, and if trials come along the fortitude and ability to bear them, quiet moments filled with calm and satisfaction. May there also be much joy and deliciousness at your table and in your life.

Until next time… x Jude

PS….Seasonality and what to cook with all that produce is a big theme for me this year, and a focus of my newsletter. If you’d like to join me there, I’d love to share it with you…. you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

All these gorgeous photos ©Harriet Harcourt

RED ONION, TOMATO AND ZUCCHINI BAKE

Ingredients

2 medium red onions - peeled and very finely sliced, whole as rounds
2 -3 medium zucchini or whatever. It all depends on their size, sliced about 1 - 1.5cm thick
5 - 6 medium - large tomatoes, or lots more smaller ones. If large, slice in thick rounds.If smaller, cut in half.
basil - I used a few leaves tucked in, if oregano appeals use that
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
E V Olive Oil - about 2 - 3 tablespoons
2 - 3 slices good sourdough, cut into 1/2 cm cubes
2 - 3 cloves garlic, crushed
good chunk of butter - about 40g

With regard to the amount of ingredients you use, balance of ingredients is more important than how many. It’s a very flexible thing especially so because tomatoes and zucchinis come in all shapes and sizes.  You can see in the picture above the balance of ingredients. If you want to make it deeper, fine but keep the balance.

  • You need a balance between the onion, zucchini and tomato
  • Overall, I think a slightly bigger zucchini (not huge and going woody) is better here.
  • Remember the onion will cook down
  • Remember that you need enough tomato to add plenty of juice

You will also need bread for the top. I used some gorgeous spelt/rye that I had in the freezer courtesy of sourdough bread queen (and luckily very good friend and colleague) Holly Davis, when she was here in Perth for classes last year. I cut them into small chunks. I do think you want some serious heft in the bread. If you feel so inclined to add a few pine nuts to the top, that would work too.

Directions

Pre heat your oven – I did mine at 170c convection, which is about 200c conventional.

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of EV Olive oil into the base of the dish, and lay the onion over this. Then layer the zucchini, followed by the tomato tucking in the herbs where there is a good spot. Sprinkle generously with the salt, a bit of pepper and another good drizzle of EVOlive oil… about 1 – 2 tablespoons. Now leave this to sit for about 15 minutes so the salt can draw out those juices and a bit of getting to know each other and mingling can take place.

While that is happening, grab a bowl, add the bread cubes, garlic and butter and massage them all together. Sprinkle and top (you can totally use more than I did in the picture) and that’s it. Into the oven, and cook for about 30 – 40 minutes or until you see those juices caramelising at the sides (including some onion) and everything looks all cooked and just a bit gooey – especially that onion. If there is burning going on (topping perhaps) and the rest is obviously not ready, turn down your oven.