Baby carrots, as we know them, are a clever innovation of industrial agriculture: Carefully milled down into unnaturally smooth specimens from big torpedo carrots, baby carrots might as well be kokeshi dolls.

So I wasn't sure what to think when I spotted some miniature zucchini at the supermarket last week.

Baby zucchini could be some sort of bizarre genetically manipulated factory agriculture monstrosity, for all I know. Since I found them at Whole Foods, though, I made the assumption that they are at least arguably natural, even if they did come in a sealed plastic bag. Every time I've seen home-gardened zucchini, though, they've been unnaturally large... I'm not sure what kinds of tricks make them stay small.

Baby zucchini with tomato and oregano (side view)

I took the zucchini home, not quite sure what I had in mind, but when I got home, I just wanted a simple side dish to accompany a couple of other things.

This dish required the least bit of attention, but it was the star of the show. It's made with some sauteed onions splashed with vermouth, and maybe a little garlic.

Sliced lengthwise, the zucchini were gently caramelized, flesh-side-down, in a little olive oil. I added the onions, fresh tomatoes, and a little additional tomato paste, the tomato paste would have been unnecessary with good tomatoes, but the fresh ones I had on hand weren't really that aromatic. A little fresh oregano wakes up the rest of the flavors.

Baby zucchini with tomato and oregano

I served this with a flavorful but very ugly savory custard. If I hadn't been eating something so rich along with it, I might have added a little shaved parmesan or some nice feta. I wanted something a bit lighter this time. Keeping things simple has its own charms...

 

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