Mar 23 2011

A Taste of Summer

Published by Christine at 12:37 pm under Vegetarian

The winter is certainly dragging on, and I for one have had just about enough. Yet there’s hope in the air, and the temperatures are slowly but surely going up, and with them, the promise of better days ahead. If only it would hurry up already (thank you).

With our new kitchen all but finished, I was itching to get some real cooking done, and so we had our friends Mary and Sean over for dinner recently. Sitting at our new kitchen island, sipping bubbly while eating tiny madeleines made with blue cheese, pear and walnuts, life felt pretty darn good, even if it was raining outside. And to celebrate the new kitchen, and the warmer days to come, I had decided on the following menu:

Curried kale and potato soup (because it’s still chilly out)
Gratin of tomato, caramelized onions and squash (because warmer days are around the corner)
Fried chicken and corn bread (because I wanted to)

The soup was a real success, my own twist on a classic recipe – I will share it with you in another post. Today, I want to spend a little time talking about the gratin, which is sure to turn the most picky eaters out there into hard-core veggie lovers. The vegetables are first sliced and salted (to render water), which allows them to cook without boiling in their juices, thus revealing their sweetness and texture.

The preparation time for the gratin might seem a bit long, but really, much of it is spent waiting for the tomatoes and squash to get ready. It will take a couple of hours, but you’re free to leave them alone and go do something else while you wait (you have my permission). Caramelizing the onions is also a bit time consuming, but most of it does not require you to be glued to the stove, which I don’t recommend doing in any event. The whole thing is flavored with thyme and garlic, and topped with a mixture of panko and parmesan. As it cooks, it fills the house with sweet and savory smells, and gets you really hungry. It’s probably my favorite gratin, one that I look forward to making more and more often as summer approaches.

Cold weather, your days are numbered.


Gratin de tomates, courgettes et onions


5 large plum tomatoes
2 medium zucchinis or summer squash (or one of each)
4 medium onions
fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko (japanese-style bread crumbs)
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Slice tomatoes and lay them on several sheets of paper towels (on top of a baking sheet works pretty well). Sprinkle salt on them and let them render water for a couple of hours. Slice squash, place in a colander over a plate, lightly salt and let them render water as well.

Summer in a bowl

Peel and slice onions lengthwise. Saute them briefly in a bit of olive oil (with some salt, pepper,and a few sprigs of thyme) on medium heat until they start to color, then turn the heat down and let them caramelize for about 35 to 40 min. Set aside.

They make the house smell so good!

Chop 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves and 2 cloves garlic and mix with 4 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside.

Place squash slices on paper towels and pat them dry. Put them at the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish and drizzle half of the olive oil/thyme/garlic mixture on top. Spread the caramelized onions on top. Pat tomato slices dry and cover the onion layer with those, drizzling the second half of the olive oil mix on top.

Arrange the vegetables in layers.

Ready for a trip to 350 Fahrenheit.

Place the dish in a preheated 350 oven and bake about 40 min, until tomatoes are looking a bit dry and starting to brown.

Mix panko with parmesan and 1 or 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle over the tomatoes and return the dish to the oven for another 10 to 15 min. or until the topping is golden brown.

I'm ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.

Hungry yet?


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