Good Eats and Sweet Treats from My Small Boston Kitchen

Summer Vegetable Gratin

It’s Secret Recipe Club reveal day again! Is it just me, or did the last month (or rather, the last SIX months) fly by in the blink of an eye?! I don’t know where the time goes! But SRC reveal day is always a whole lot of fun, so let’s get to it. I have something wonderful and summery to share today! This month, I was assigned the blog Fabulously Fun Food, written by Melanie. On her site, Melanie offers a wonderful variety of recipes to peruse, everything from breads, appetizers and breakfast dishes, to sides, veggie and meat mains, soups and stews – and of course some tasty sounding desserts (always my favorite). However, I decided to change things up this month and make something savory. In fact, I narrowed my list of possibilities to four recipes that I thought sounded great, and they were ALL savory! Go figure.

I chose to make Melanie’s Summer Vegetable Gratin, a recipe that originally hails from Cooks Illustrated, which is a cooking bible of sorts in my mind. The recipes uses a bounty of fresh summer veggies, livened up with some garlic, parmesan, fresh herbs and bread crumbs. Kevin and I make a very concerted effort to fill ourselves with veggies as a normal part of our diet, so I always love finding recipes that take ordinary vegetables and make them extraordinary. I LOVE zucchini, summer squash and tomatoes, so this recipe pretty much sold itself.

Something I didn’t notice until AFTER I’d made this recipe was Melanie’s comment that this wasn’t a star recipe in her book. In fact, the gratin was in the oven when I noticed that comment, and I had a mini panic moment where I wondered if I’d picked the wrong recipe. Fortunately, when all was said and done, Kevin and I LOVED this recipe. I found it to be wildly flavorful, and lots of fun to eat. I think my only criticism is that the texture is very soft – all of the veggies break down completely after being in the oven for nearly an hour – so if you have texture issues this may not be for you. However, for Kevin and I, who didn’t mind the soft texture, it was a serious home run. I followed the recipe and process pretty closely, only changing how I applied the dressing to the squash, and substituting bread crumbs for a slice of bread (both changes have been noted below).

This dish to me totally embodies summer. It’s all about highlighting fresh, local produce, and creating a recipe that makes vegetables taste better than you can imagine. We served the gratin alongside grilled steak and homemade chimichurri sauce (thanks Kevin!) and it was superb. Perfect summer dinner!

Summer Vegetable Gratin
adapted from Fabulously Fun Food, originally from Cooks Illustrated

6 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced into coins 1/4-inch thick
1 pound yellow squash, ends trimmed and sliced into coins 1/4-inch thick
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes (3-4 large), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin (about 3 cups)
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme)
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.

1) Toss zucchini and squash slices with 1 teaspoon of salt in a large colander, and allow to drain about 45 minutes, or until they release 3 Tablespoons of liquid. Arrange slices on a triple layer of paper towels or a clean dish towel, cover with a clean dish towel (or more paper towels), and press firmly to remove as much moisture as possible.

2) While the squash is draining, line another dish towel with the tomatoes, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Allow to stand 30 minutes, then using a clean dish towel or paper towels, press firmly to remove as much moisture as possible from the tomatoes.

3) Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and deeply golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

4) Combine the garlic, 3 tablespoons of oil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. In a large bowl, toss the squash and zucchini with the garlic-oil mixture. Arrange in the baking dish, then top with an even layer of the onions. Slightly overlap the tomato slices in a single layer over the onions. Bake until the vegetables are softened and tomatoes are starting to brown around the edges, 40-45 minutes.

5) While the vegetables cook, combine the bread crumbs, parmesan, and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium bowl. Set aside.

6) After 40-45 minutes of baking, remove the baking dish from the oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the vegetables, and return to oven until gratin is bubbling and lightly browned, 5-10 minutes more. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil. Allow to sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

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