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A Creamy Gratin That'll Make a Zucchini Lover Out of Anyone

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In the 1970s, my mother belonged to a gourmet cooking club. For a French-themed dinner, she chose to make a fish dish that called for crème fraîche. I had never heard of crème fraîche before and was intrigued. She made it from scratch, using a mixture of heavy cream and buttermilk. After it thickened and aged for a while, this crème fraîche was used in the topping for a delicate fillet of sole that was baked in the oven and was quite delicious.

Making Crème Fraîche at Home

Making Crème Fraîche at Home by A Cozy Kitchen

How to Use Every Spoonful of Crème Fraîche

How to Use Every Spoonful of Crème Fraîche by Caroline Lange


After the success of this dish at the dinner party, my mother made it for a special dinner for our family. I must have liked it and remembered crème fraîche with some awe and anticipation of making it myself someday.

I don’t think I ever made crème fraîche or used it to cook, however, until many years later, when it kept showing up in recipes I was reading, and I began to experiment with how to use it in my kitchen endeavors.

Mom's Famous Zucchini Gratin
Mom's Famous Zucchini Gratin

One recipe that I invented is a zucchini gratin that everyone in my family seemed to love—including my husband, whose natural inclination is to avoid zucchini. A few years later, when my daughter Rebecca was completing her senior project on “Women in the Kitchen” for her women’s studies degree, she prepared this dish for a special dinner party to conclude the assignment. A brief write-up of this dish was listed in the booklet she put together to give to guests at the dinner party. I was quite honored to see it named “Mom’s Famous Zucchini Gratin."

Years later, when Rebecca was living in Portland, she wanted to make this dish for her co-workers at the feminist bookstore, In Other Words. She called me up with an urgent request to remind her how to make it. As usual, the resulting dish was a great success. It always is!

And it’s the crème fraîche that does the trick.

Mom's Famous Zucchini Gratin

Mom's Famous Zucchini Gratin

JoanG JoanG
Serves 6 to 8
  • 8 to 10 baby or small yellow squash and zucchini (or 3 medium-sized) sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves only
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 2 slices of good whole-wheat toast, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup grated Swiss and Manchego cheese, mixed together
  • Freshly ground pepper
Go to Recipe

What's your favorite way to cook zucchini and summer squash? Tell us in the comments below!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Summer, Vegetarian, Heirloom Recipes