At home we make this recipe all summer long with vegetables from the market. Then, in early September, the magic moment arrives when every ingredient comes from our own garden. The name pesto comes from the Italian ?pestare?, to pound, as with a mortar and pestle. Basil is the traditional choice of aromatic herb but others, such as flat leaf parsley or cilantro, are just as good. Mint is my particular favorite   an underestimated herb, I think.

Serves 4-6

  • 2 medium zucchini (about 330g or 3/4 lb
  • 2 medium yellow or scallop squash (about 330g or 3/4 lb)
  • 450g/ 1lb tomatoes
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper

For the pesto

  • a medium bunch (about 40g or 1 1/2 oz of mint or other herb
  • 30g/ 1 oz/ 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 175ml/ 6fl oz/ 3/4 cup olive oil, more for the dish
  • 1.5 liter/ 1 1/4 quart/ 1 1/2 quart gratin or baking dish

1. Heat the oven to 180ºC/350°F/Gas 4. Wipe the zucchini and squash with damp paper towels and cut them in uneven 2cm/¾in chunks. (There?s no need to dice them neatly). Toss them into a large bowl. Core the tomatoes, cut them in chunks, and add them to the zucchini and squash with the onions, salt, and pepper. Brush the gratin dish with olive oil.

2. Make the pesto: Tear the mint leaves from the stems, discarding the stems, and, if you like, reserve some sprigs for decoration. Purée the mint leaves, garlic, cheese, and pine nuts in a food processor with 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Gradually add the remaining oil with the blades turning so that the sauce emulsifies. It should be a rather loose consistency, thinner than mayonnaise but thicker than salad dressing. Season it to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Add the pesto to the vegetables and toss so they are well coated with sauce. Spread them in the baking dish and bake until they are very tender and brown, 40-50 minutes. Decorate the vegetables with herb sprigs, and serve the gratin hot or at room temperature.

Shortcut: Use one of the good ready-made pesto sauces on the market.

Getting Ahead: Gratin of Summer Vegetables says Mediterranean to me, a dish that can be baked ahead and keeps happily for a day at room temperature, longer in the refrigerator. Just before serving, you might want to pick up its flavors by sprinkling the gratin with a little more olive oil and some lemon juice or vinegar ? in effect a vinaigrette dressing.

On the Side: A gratin of summer vegetables is the perfect accompaniment to grilled fish.

In the Glass: A chilled rosé wine from anywhere you fancy.

From Good Food No Fuss by Anne Willan, 2003

Photo Credit: Simon Wheeler