Zucchini dressed in layers

It is easy to poke fun at zucchini. Who, at this time of year, doesn’t think that your friends and neighbors bringing sacks of the stuff to your door are anything but unwelcome guests.

Perhaps if zucchini season were as short as rhubarb season we would hold it in higher respect.

Young slim specimens hold many charms. Added to soups and salads, or shreaded into baked goods, these mild, sweet fresh cuties are suprisingly light and delicate. Raw or sauted, lightly charred on a grill or broiler, zucchini and summer squash add layers of color that make the difference between cooking and dining.

Another way to serve zucchini is to bake them into a tian, which is basically a casserole that prefers to go by its French name. Calling a dish a tian adds some mystery and an elelment of chicness.

Try this easy yet stunning casserole and you might find yourself glad for the zucchini overload.

Zucchini Tian with Curried

Bread Crumbs

1 Tablespoon curry powder

7 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 cup whole-wheat or regular panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt

1 large white onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary

1 pint cherry or grape tomtoes, halved

1/4 cup dry white wine

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste

4 medium zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced (about 7 cups)

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add curry powder and let toast until frgrant, about 30 seconds. Add 2 tablespooons olive oil, then stir in panko bread crumbs and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out skillet.

2. In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat, then add onions, rosemary and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, until onions are a deep golden brown. Add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Pour white wine into pan and bring to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits. Remove from heat and stir in garlic, orange zest and black pepper.

3. Grease inside of a medium-size casserole dish with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and spread a third of the onion and tomato mixture on the bottom. Begin layering zucchini in an overlapping pattern, beginning around the outside and working your way in. Sprinkle with a third of the bread crumbs. Repeat layering two more times, ending with bread crumbs. Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil over bread crumbs and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until vegetables are extremely tender and top has browned. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Susan Woody has been a food writer for more than 20 years and is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.

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