Thursday, August 4, 2011

Double Take: Summer Vegetable Gratin

Today, I realized that my last post (Risotto Primavera) was the 100th post on my blog. That seems rather momentous to me. If I glance back at the past 100 posts, I see a lot of double takes posts, a smattering of some of the cooking nights I've hosted, and several daring challenges. I also see that my writing and photography skills have changed (for the better, I think). Looking forward, I hope to get you all updated with all the crazy cooking nights we've done. Further, I'd like to start giving you more of a taste of the sweet treats I make for people's birthdays. I'll also be adding a recipe index soon and I have a new food interest that I can hopefully start sharing in the next few months. I'll let it be a surprise but the only hint I have is that it takes more time than a standard recipe takes to produce. It promises to be really fun.

Is there anything special you'd like to see getting posted here? Is there anything that is a missing feature on the blog page that drives you crazy? Let me know! This is a work in progress.

Today's recipe is a shout out to all those summer vegetables you've been gathering from your garden, local farmer's market, neighbor who can't handle anymore, or grocery. I know, everyone didn't grow up eating loads of vegetables. I'm always impressed with all the veggies that Laura @ Hey what's for dinner mom? is able to get her kids to not only eat but also enjoy! Sometimes in the daily and weekly routine, its easy to fall into a steam it and get tired of it rut with vegetables. While this is healthy, it can get dull. I don't know about you but if I get bored of food, I have trouble making myself eat it. One way to break up the rut is by combining vegetables together to compliment one another. That's exactly what the summer vegetable gratin does. It combines complimenting vegetables (in a combination that comes as somewhat of a surprise) with common spices and CHEESE!

Summer Vegetable Gratin

Say Cheese! See its got you smiling already! :)

Summer Vegetable Gratin (Adapted from Pink Parsley and Cook's Illustrated)

Prep Time: 45-50 minutes
Bake Time: 40-45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hr 30 minutes.

Servings: 4-6 (as a side), 2-4 (as a main)


3  Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch slices (approximately 1 medium zucchini), (can sub yellow squash or eggplant easily)
1 teaspoons salt
3/4 pounds ripe tomatoes (2 large), sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium onions, halved lengthwise and sliced thin (about 1.5 cups)
3/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced dried thyme leaves
1 large slice good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into quarters
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
(optional) 1 Tbsp Asiago or Romano cheese, grated (for a little added flavor)
2 Tbsp chives, minced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves (1 Tbsp dried basil leaves)
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

How To: 

Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly oil a 8x8 inch baking dish and set aside.

Toss zucchini slices with 1/2 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 dish towel, cover with a clean dish towel, and press firmly to remove as much moisture as possible.

As the zucchini drains, line another dish towel with the tomatoes, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Allow to stand 30 minutes, then using a clean dish towel or paper towels, press firmly to dry the tomatoes.

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

Combine the garlic, 1 1/2 Tablespoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, thyme, and rosemary in a small bowl.  Whisk to combine.  In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with half 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, and drizzle with the remaining oil mixture.  Bake until the vegetables are softened and tomatoes are starting to brown around the edges, 40-45 minutes.

As the vegetables cook, pulse the bread in a food processor until finely ground (You should have about 1/2 cup of crumbs).  Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, Asiago or Romano (if desired), 1/2 Tablespoon oil, and chives in a medium bowl.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and increase the heat to 450.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the vegetables, and bake gratin until bubbling and lightly browned, 5-10 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil.  Allow to sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

Ready to eat....finally!

My Reaction: 

Holy cow that took an hour and a half! Holy cow its tasty. Maybe there's a way to prep the veggies ahead of time to make this go more quickly. Perhaps slice and salt in the morning before work so the veggies lose their water while I'm not around and waiting on them? You could also pre cook the onions too but to be honest, its just being done ahead and not really saving time other than having a shorter time to wait between arriving home from work and eating supper. This could be an advantage but then again, this could be a Saturday or Sunday meal rather than a weeknight wonder. Its different, easily adaptable and quite tasty. I'd definitely make it again!

Be sure to see what Mel thought by jumping over to Fabulously Fun Food

Today's recipe is going to be linked to Laura's Meatless Monday and I'd encourage you to check it out for some more great ideas for changing up your vegetable routine. To find lists of her meatless dishes and other folks who've linked up, head over to Hey What's for Dinner Mom? and search her google box for Meatless Monday.

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