Simple baked zucchini à la française

Two pieces of simple baked zucchini à la française, plated, with glimpses of tomatoes and rice in the background.

*Peeks into blog, just to see if anyone’s still there.* Oh, hi! Oh, thank goodness. I was worried you’d all gone home. I’m sorry — it’s been a long gap since my last post! In between then and now there’s been a lot going on, but it’s all boiled down to a timing problem: I want to do the job that pays me, and sleep, and write this blog, but I seem to have only had time for two of the three. And since I barely function on little sleep (much less no sleep), and since the bank keeps wanting mortgage payments and the like, I’ve had to hold off on new blog posts here. But I think we’ve turned a corner!

Zucchini nestle in a baking dish, strips of peel tangled on the cutting board beside, while containers of cream, olive oil, and salt sit around the periphery: that's all that's in the dish!

And while I’ve been, hopefully, turning a corner on my overcrowded schedule, the seasons have also been turning a corner here in the Great Lakes. (How’s that for a segue?) Which is terribly handy, since I’ve been sitting on this recipe for baked zucchini for more than six weeks, but nobody wants to bake a zucchini for an hour when it’s 90 degrees out. Not even when the finished product is meltingly tender. Not even when it has only three ingredients, and yet ends up complex and intriguing. Not even when it manages to be both lightly sweet and pleasantly earthy at the same time.

Zucchini ready for their hot oil and cream spa session: droplets of cream and oil stick to the zucchini in their dish, flecked with salt and pepper

And let’s be clear: this baked zucchini is all of these things, so thank goodness it’s now late summer and the mercury is falling (at least around these parts). With the windows open and an evening breeze coming in, I can happily pop some squash in the oven. This is another recipe I picked up from my husband’s French relatives, and while it’s cooking I can think of nothing more appropriate than to set the timer, pour a glass of crisp Alsatian Gewurztraminer, and retire to the porch for some relaxation (or some grading, if we’re being honest). Pair this with some good bread and another simple vegetable dish, and you’ve got a little French vacation on your plate. Bon voyage; I’ll be here when you get back, I promise!

Summer on a plate: Simple baked zucchini à la française, Germaine's tomato salad, and some rice

Summer on a plate: Simple baked zucchini à la française, Germaine’s tomato salad, and rice.

Simple baked zucchini à la française

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 70 minutes, mostly inactive
  • Print

This dish is perfect for late summer, when the summer squash are still abundant but temperatures have begun to drop. Don’t let the simple ingredients fool you: this is an immensely satisfying dish, sweet and earthy and beautifully tender. The zucchini are an excellent side dish to a more elaborate main, but I like to pair them with one or two other simple vegetable dish and some bread or rice to celebrate the harvest-time.

Inspired by a dish from the kitchen of Germaine Rihn.

Ingredients

2 largish zucchini (about 1 lb. each)
1/4 c heavy cream
1/4 c olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the middle.

Using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, peel stripes in the zucchini.

Fit the zucchini into a 1 qt. baking dish, halving them if necessary; the orientation doesn’t matter, so long as they fit snugly in the dish.

Pour over the cream and olive oil, then sprinkle heavily with salt and pepper.

Bake for 60 minutes, until quite tender. Serve immediately.

Options

This should work with any color or shape of summer squash, though the timing may vary. It should also scale well, so if you’re feeding a crowd grab more zucchini and a larger dish.

As it reduces during the cooking process, the cream takes on a slightly cheesy flavor; you could certainly elaborate on that cue by sprinkling the baked zucchini with cheese (an Emmenthaler or Gruyère would be appropriate) and passing the dish under the broiler briefly to melt and brown slightly.

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