Summertime gratin


The week is not complete unless I visit the farmers market on Saturday.  My favorite vendors are now used to seeing me early, in my running outfit.   Indeed, “as early as possible” is the only way to exercise this time of the year, but, the farmers market is my first priority:  how else would I get the best possible zucchini? Or ANY eight-ball zucchini, or the cinnamon rolls?  All those disappear quickly.  At the farmers’ market  the early bird definitely gets the worm (no need to remind me that only the late mouse grabs the cheese…) 😉

I usually buy  more than I should, anything that looks great goes into my bag,  as part of the fun is getting home and deciding what to make with the beauties.  Last week both the golden and magda zucchini were spectacular.   I considered many different options, but settled on an “oldie but goodie” from Fine Cooking magazine, June 1999.  I remember making it for the first time just after the issue arrived in the mail (hard to believe it’s been 10 years!). You can use any summer squash in the recipe, Japanese eggplant also works quite well.

(receita em portugues na pagina seguinte)

(recipe adapted from Fine Cooking, originally written by Susie Middleton)

For caramelized onions:
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
salt to taste
For gratin:
1 + 1/4 lb ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 small zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices on the bias
2 small golden zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices on the bias
3 T olive oil
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves (I used lemon thyme from our garden)
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used a Mexican fresh cheese)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
lemon juice

First, caramelize the onions: heat olive oil in a skillet, add the onions, salt, and saute’, stirring often, until golden. Don’t let it burn: use medium-heat and pay attention to it.  The difference between caramelized and burned is small in time, but huge in taste. You can do this step in advance, as it will take you at least 20 minutes (see my comments after the jump).

Heat the oven to 375F. Put the tomato slices to drain if they are too juicy, discard the juices. In a small bowl, toss the zucchini with 1.5T olive oil, some of the thyme, salt, and black pepper. Layer  the cold caramelized onions inside a gratin dish.  Now distribute the tomato slices and two colors of zucchini on top, sprinkling some cheese and thyme as you go (see my photo after the jump).  Arrange all the slices until the dish is full.  Season the ingredients with salt and pepper, add cheese on top, the remaining thyme, and drizzle the dish with 1.5T olive oil and a little lemon juice.  Cook uncovered until well-browned, with the juices well reduced. It will take between 50 and 60 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Bon Appetit!
Once you have the onions ready, this gratin is a breeze to make. Caramelized onions are great to cook with! So much flavor, all the harshness of the raw onion is cooked away, the sugars come through beautifully. I normally make them during the weekend, in large amounts, then freeze small portions. They are excellent as a topping for pizzas, but also very good as a starting point for soups, stews, sauces. One variation that I particularly love is to add balsamic vinegar as the onion cooks.
I’ve made this dish in the past without the onions. It won’t have the same rich flavor in the background, but it will still taste delicious. The original recipe calls for a larger amount of parmiggiano cheese.   I prefer to use a smaller amount of a melting-type cheese.  Feel free to adapt it to your liking.  The lemon juice is also my own addition. I could  have named my blog  “Lemon Addiction”, as I seem to add lemon juice everywhere 😉.  At a dinner party, consider making this gratin in individual portions for a very nice presentation…

(receita ligeiramente modificada da original por Susie Middleton, Fine Cooking)

para as cebolas caramelizadas:
2 colheres de sopa de azeite
2 cebolas de tamanho medio, cortadas fininho

para o gratinado
tomates cortados em fatias nao muito finas
2 abobrinhas cortadas em fatias enviesadas
2 abobrinhas amarelas cortadas em fatias enviesadas
3 colheres de sopa de azeite
1/4 xicara de tomilho fresco
1 colher de cha de sal
1/2 xicara de queijo ralado de sua preferencia (parmesao ou outro tipo)
pimenta e sal a gosto
suco de limao amarelo

Primeiro, caramelize as cebolas cozinhando no azeite e sal lentamente, ate’ que fiquem cor de bronze. Nao deixe queimar. Use fogo medio, mexa constantemente, deve levar no minimo 20 minutos.

Aqueca o forno em temperatura media-alta, coloque os tomates para drenar um pouco do liquido se estiverem maduros demais. Misture as fatias de abobrinha com metade do azeite, sal, pimenta e tomilho. Va’ formando fileiras com os ingredientes, alternando as cores (veja foto no post em ingles), colocando queijo a cada fileira. Ao final, coloque queijo por cima de tudo, tomilho, tempere com sal e pimenta, regue com o resto do azeite, salpique suco de limao e leve ao forno, sem cobrir.

Asse por 50 a 60 minutos, ate’ que o liquido borbulhe e quase evapore, e o gratinado fique bem douradinho. Para uma apresentacao muito bonita, faca o gratinado em porcoes individuais, em tigelinhas redondas.

8 thoughts on “Summertime gratin

    • I remember it generated a lot of praise at the Cook’s Talk… It is indeed a great little side dish, so flavorful!

      I am already getting nostalgic about Summer…


  1. I love, love, love this recipe! I am guilty of using much more parmesan cheese than the recipe lists and eating it as soon as it comes out of the oven!! Your presentation is beautiful, especially using the two colors of squash.


  2. This looks REALLY yummy! I’m headed out to our community garden where there are zillions of types of zucchini….and I’m going to give this recipe a try. Thanks!!


  3. Pingback: CINNAMON TURBAN BREAD « Bewitching Kitchen

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