Side Dishes

Recipe—Zucchini and Tomato Gratin

Out of all of the seasons, I love the summer most. Not just because of my lazy poolside days, baseball games, refreshing beverages, or little summer dresses, but because of the abundance and variety of incredible produce. It is something that people in California take for granted. Every year we grow a couple of cherry tomatoes plants in out backyard. My son can hardly wait for them to ripen and as soon as they do he eats them right off of the plant. Sweet, warm, vine ripened tomatoes. Yummmmmm…there is nothing like them. We seem to have a bowl full on our counter all summer long. The other veggie we seem to never get enough of during the summer is zucchini. Zucchini and tomatoes are a wonderful pair, and when you add in some quality parmesan cheese and fresh basil, delish! When I first tried this recipe for zucchini and tomato gratin I knew it was a recipe I would be making all summer long. Serve it up on it’s own with some pasta or as a side with your favorite protein, either way it is a perfect summertime dish.

sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
olive oil
3 medium zucchini, sliced
1 leek, sliced and thoroughly washed
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 c parmesan cheese
1 1/2 c Italian bread crumbs
1 1/2 c cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped


  • Preheat oven to 425º.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of large cast iron skillet.
  • Separate the onions rings, place them in the bottom of the skillet, and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  • Add half of the sliced zucchini, half of the leeks, and all of the garlic to the pan.
  • Sprinkle with a 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese and a 3/4 cup of the breadcrumbs.
  • Drizzle with additional olive oil.
  • Add the remaining zucchini, remaining leeks, and all of the cherry tomatoes to the pan and drizzle with more olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese and a 3/4 cup of the breadcrumbs.
  • Drizzle with a tad more olive oil.
  • Bake entire pan in the oven for 25–30 minutes.
  • Turn on the broiler and finish the dish off under the broiler for 2–3 minutes or until it is golden brown on top.
  • Garnish with fresh basil.

Recipe adapted from Proud Italian Cook.

Side Dishes

Recipe—Italian Style Stuffed Artichokes

One of my best friends used to work in this cute little Italian deli that had numerous homemade Italian dishes. My three favorite things there was their gelato (which my friend kindly delivered to my door step while I was pregnant, becasue she’s awesome like that), eggplant parmesan, and their Italian stuffed artichokes. I LOVE their stuffed artichokes! They are a tad bit messy to eat but so delicious! When I eat artichokes I’m the type of gal that needs soemthing to dip the leaves in, whether it be mayonnaise, aioli, or garlic butter. However with these there is so much flavor in the bread crumbs that no dip is necessary. You just pull the bread crumbs off with the tender ends of the leaves.

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic
salt and pepper
1 c Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
2 large artichokes
1/2 of a lemon


  • Preheat oven to 425º.
  • Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet.
  • Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  • Remove the skillet form heat and stir in breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.
  • Season bread crumbs with salt and pepper.
  • Put a pot of water on to boil. (The amount of water you will need will depend on the size of your baking dish. You will need enough that the artichokes can sit in 1” of water.)
  • Prepare the artichokes by slicing off the stems and their tops and then pulling off the small outer leaves. (I trim about an inch off. This exposes the center leaves making it easier to remove them.)
  • Using a pair of kitchen shear trim the pointy tips off of the leaves.
  • Take the lemon half and rub it all over the artichokes. (This keeps the cut areas from turning an ugly brown color and gives it a nice little zest.)
  • Gently try to loosen up the dense center leaves by pressing them outward.
  • Pull out some of the thin center leaves if you are able to, creating a small well in the middle.
  • Stuff the prepared breadcrumbs in the center well and in between the large leaves.
  • Place the stuffed artichokes in a baking dish.
  • Once your water has come to a boil, carefully pour it into the baking dish so that the artichokes are sitting in 1” of water.
  • Cover the entire baking dish tightly with foil.
  • Bake in the over for 1 hour or until the leaves are cooked to desired tenderness.