Mouths to Feed: An Evening Meal

Zucchini Betty

Zucchini Betty

The days grow snug in September, as if we actually got fat on summer daylight and now don’t quite fit into autumn’s tighter spans of sunlit hours. We’ll adjust. By mid-October, it’ll be easy to sit at a desk while dusk falls — to simply switch on a lamp and carry on. The clock rather than the sky will announce when it’s suppertime.

At my house, we’ve been eating late all summer. I keep announcing that we must get in the habit of finishing supper by 7, but I can barely pull that off for a single day. Last night, we ate at 9. Two hours earlier, I was floating on my back in a purple-tinged lake; Peter was finishing up a building project in the garden (He’d swum earlier, lest you feel sorry for him.) “Avidly lingering” is an oxymoron, but I can’t think of a better way to describe what we were doing — each of us grabbing just a little more daylight while we still could. 

At the farmers market, too, I’m grabbing a little too much summer produce while I still can, aware that its days are numbered. I came home this week with a surplus of zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, herbs and far too much fruit, among other things. Most of my mid-summer cooking, when I apply heat to ingredients at all, is a last-minute flash (though to be honest it’s more like a “last-30-minute flash”), as I boil up pasta or rice, flash-sauté some vegetables, tear herbs, set the table. 

The arrival of cooler evenings this week made me think about recipes that would bring a little coziness to summer ingredients — the culinary equivalent of throwing a light sweater over a T-shirt or sundress. I also am in the mood for dishes I can prep ahead of time, then finish off when evening lures me back into the kitchen. 

Meanwhile, summer’s stone fruits have left me with a hankering for cobblers and crumbles. Somewhere in my mind, these various ideas mashed together, and I found myself making this recipe for a savory crumble/gratin hybrid, with nuggets of zucchini, potatoes and Sungold tomatoes simmering in a splash of broth under a topping of toasted bread crumbs, herbs, cheese and nuts. 

It’s quite easy to make, and could almost certainly be adapted to whatever vegetables you have on hand. Moreover, because both potatoes and cast iron hold heat quite well, you can actually bake it at 5, and then eat at 7 or 8 — or even, as we did last night, at half past 9, on the heels of a starlit swim. 

Zucchini Betty

  • 1 pound small, waxy potatoes
  • 1¼ pounds very small zucchini (about 5)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 slices day-old bread (about 6 ounces)
  • 2½ ounces cheese, grated (see note)
  • ⅓ cup walnuts
  • ⅔ cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves, divided
  • 12 to 15 cherry tomatoes (I used Sungold)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the potatoes into roughly 1-inch chunks (or use baby potatoes whole). Cut the zucchini to a similar size. 

In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over a medium flame, heat the butter and olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté until golden. Add the potatoes and toss well. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook about 10 minutes, lifting the lid after 5 minutes and scraping up any bits that are beginning to brown. 

Meanwhile, place the bread, walnuts, grated cheese and half the parsley and thyme in a food processor and process just until crumbly. (Alternatively, you can mince them on a cutting board if you want a bigger crumble.)

Remove the lid from the skillet (you may want to test a potato at this point — it should be slightly al dente) and add the zucchini and rest of the herbs, along with some salt and a generous grinding of black pepper. Toss well, turn up the heat and sauté for a couple minutes. Add the broth and tomatoes. Remove from heat. Pat the crumble over the surface of the vegetables. Transfer to the oven and cook until the juices are bubbling and the top is a deep golden-brown, about 35 minutes.

Leave a Reply

The Current welcomes comments on its coverage and local issues. All online comments are moderated, must include your full name and may appear in print. See our guidelines here.