26 August 2008

Summer Gratin

After a weekend of eating beach food (read fried things, ice cream and brownies) I really needed some vegetables. I happened to come across a new-to-me blog, Flexitarian Menu, and was immediately inspired to make not one, but two things from it, starting with this summer vegetable gratin. The recipe was so simple it took hardly any time at all to put together and the simplicity highlighted the flavors of the fresh tomatoes, squash and zucchini.

I modified the original Flexitarian recipe quite a bit (both because I forgot to print it out and was looking to cut the fat.). The sliced veggies (which you can see above) rest on a bed of sauteed onions and where the original recipe called for olive oil for sauteeing I used butter. While this does add a bit more saturated fat, I decided to do it to follow Marcella Hazan's (the best Italian cookbook writer ever) principal of not mixing olive oil and cheese and because onions cooking in butter may be the best kitchen smell ever.

Once the onions were softened I spread them out on the bottom on the gratin dish and arranged the other vegetables on top, sprinkling some parsley, oregano, salt and pepper on each layer. The original recipe called for liberally topping the dish with olive oil before sprinkling on the breadcrumb and cheese topping but I wasn't sure that would actually improve the flavor and skipped it entirely. For the topping, I used a combination of panko bread crumbs, fontina and Gruyeres cheeses and it baked into the most deliciously crispy crust.

This recipe will easily feed four for a main course and has only 1 T. butter and a little more than half a cup of cheese (shredded) but tastes so good, you'd never think it was a lower-fat dish. The onions on the bottom get caramelized during baking and add a hint of sweetness to balance the tang of the cheese and the oregano adds just a hint of flavor. If Zach will happily eat this for dinner without a piece of meat in sight, I think you'll like it too. I served it with a whole wheat drop biscuit, which I will be posting about later this week.

Update: I liked this so much I've made it a second time using eggplant in place of the squash and basil in place of oregano- also delicious.

In the recipe below I've given approximate measurements for the vegetables but it really depends on the size of your baking dish and the size of the veggies.

I'm submitting this post to Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Ruth at Kitchen Experiments a roundup of recipes that one has been meaning to make...

Summer Vegetable Gratin
Adapted from Flexitarian Menu
Serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side

1/2 large onion, sliced (about one cup)
1 T. butter

3 tomatoes
1 small zucchini
1 small squash (or eggplant)
fresh oregano (from about 5 stalks)
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/2 c. panko
1/3 c. fontina cheese, grated
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

- Preheat oven to 350F. Heat a skillet on the stove with the butter, add the onions and cook till softened, about 10 minutes.

- While the onion is cooking, slice the vegetables into rounds about 1/4 in. (1/2 cm) thick. Mix the cheeses and panko in a small bowl. Mix the parsley and oregano together and add 1 T. to the cheeses and mix again.

- When the onion in cooked, spread it over the bottom of your baking dish (8x8in works, as does an oblong casserole) and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then arrange the vegetables on top in alternating rows, sprinkling with the herb mix, salt and pepper every few rows. When your dish is filled, top with remaining herb mix and sprinkle on the cheese and panko topping. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is golden brown, serve immediately.

The gratin does pretty well as leftovers, especially if you heat in in the toaster oven the next day.


kat said...

I'm in love with these summer gratins! I have a lot of zucchini so I think I'll end up doing one this week too.

Katerina said...

This sounds amazing, Marcella is such a goodess isn't she.

Anonymous said...

Hey, great adjustments! It sounds really tasty with butter. And thank you for visiting my blog.

Ruth E said...

Jen what a beautiful gratin! Good on you for making it again too... sounds like a great dish!

Thanks for sending it to bookmarked recipes