When we were going to school at Utah State we planted a small garden every summer. We’d only plant a few plants, but between some combination of the plants getting radiant heat from a bordering concrete wall and being planted in rich, organic soil (compliments of our former downstairs neighbor), the harvest was always prolific. Our squash plant was particularly fruitful. It grew faster than we could eat it and seemed to possess mutant capabilities. Every time we would cut off one of it’s green tentacles in hopes of curbing it’s output it only seemed to grow stronger and produce more. By the end of the summer we were tired of squash and had run out of friends that were willing to take an unwanted squash into their home. How I wish I’d had this recipe back then.
Gardening has become more of a battle since moving to Colorado. Sometimes it feels like the deck is stacked against us with our pleasantly shady yard, overabundance of deer and rabbits, and uncooperative clay soil. While we’re learning and adapting, we still have yet to actually grow a single squash. It’s completely maddening. We’re bound and determined to revive the days of the abundant squash harvest, but in the meantime we indulge whenever it goes on sale. I love grilled squash or squash pasta, but this casserole is definitely my favorite way to consume it.
Originally, I was making this dish as a casserole in the oven as seen on Budge Bytes, but it created too many thermal gains in our house during squash’s prime growing season. (Ahem, can you tell I’m the wife of an engineer working on energy efficiency? We actually have real conversations about thermal gains at our house which always makes for riveting dinner party conversations . . . ) I changed up a few things to make this meal dutch oven friendly and I’m happy to welcome it to my camp recipe rolodex as well as my regular rotation of backyard dutch oven cooking. This recipe is so tasty and delicious that even our two children willingly eat their vegetables and you will too.
Dutch Oven Summer Vegetable Tian
- 1 TBSP oil
- 1/2-1 whole medium onion, chopped (amount depends on your preference and tolerance.)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
- 2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
- 4 large potatoes, thinly sliced (I’ve used russets, red, and Yukon gold with equal success)
- 3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Dried Thyme, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 C parmesan and romano cheese blend, grated
- At home: Chop onion and garlic and store in a container (bag, tupperware, etc). Slice potatoes, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes. (This is a great time to use a fancy kitchen tool if you have it. Currently, my fancy tool is a good knife and my own two hands.) You can store all these items in the same container if you like, but I like to divide them out. Adding water to the container with the potatoes helps them from oxidizing and changing color. Store all the vegetables and cheese in your cooler and pack the oil and seasonings.
- At camp: Start your charcoal. You’ll need a total of 24 briquettes, but it’s always a good idea to have a few extra. Sauté the onion and garlic until softened (about 5 minutes). You can do this in the dutch oven over some briquettes or on a camping or backpacking stove.
- Spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of a 10″ dutch oven. Place the thinly sliced vegetables in the dutch oven, lining them up vertically around the edges in an alternating pattern. Pack the vegetables nice and tight. I generally do a loose circle, enough that the vegetables can stand up on their own, and then fill in any spaces. Continue this process with a second inner ring
- Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and thyme. The majority of the flavor comes from this, so don’t skimp!
- Cover your dutch oven with its lid. Bake with 10 briquettes on bottom and 14 briquettes on top for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, top with cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the vegetables are soft.