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Summertime Gratin

Summertime Gratin

We have a truly world-class library here in Princeton. No, not the university library, which is so vast you need a skateboard to navigate the aisles, but the town’s public library, which has a fantastic collection of books, cds, dvds, movies, and even tech products that you can try out. (A special shout-out to my good friend Jan, who’s the head children’s librarian there). image The library also holds film series, lectures, musical performances and demonstrations throughout the year, including a recent series of cooking demonstrations from local chefs. I managed to attend only one, given by Christopher Albrecht, executive chef of Enoterra, a terrific restaurant in Kingston. On the day I attended, he made a summer squash gratin with a base of onions and fennel, topped with parmesan cheese and goat cheese. It was delicious but I wanted more of a crispy topping similar to the one my friend Stacey made in her vegetable tian. I took inspiration from both of their recipes, omitting Chef Albrecht’s goat cheese, and adding eggplant and breadcrumbs as well as parmesan cheese to the topping.  I changed the cooking times and temperature too to allow for a crunchy finish at the top. The result was a recipe I plan to make over and over again, especially now that the garden is yielding such abundant squash and eggplant. The recipe starts with a base of fennel and onion that is cooked slowly until it caramelizes. This adds such great flavor. June 2010 734 Then for this casserole, which feeds two really hungry people, or four normal appetites for a side dish, you’ll need one green zucchini, one yellow squash, and one Japanese eggplant. I used little grape tomatoes because that’s what I had but plum tomatoes would work well too. The herbs, zucchini and eggplant are from my garden. June 2010 736 After you’ve caramelized the onions and fennel, place them in a casserole with some chopped up fresh herbs (I used thyme, oregano and rosemary). Slice the other vegetables thinly. I used a mandoline and sliced them about 1/8 inch thick. June 2010 738 Layer the vegetables atop the onion/fennel mixture.  June 2010 739 Continue until the casserole is filled. Layer them tightly because they’ll shrink during cooking. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and more herbs. June 2010 741 Next comes the topping of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. June 2010 742 Then bake until the top is crispy  and crunchy. At this point, the smells coming from the kitchen were irresistible. June 2010 754 But the proof was in the pudding – or rather the gratin. And it was a winner. We literally scraped the dish clean. June 2010 767 June 2010 768 Summertime Gratin printable recipe here (feeds two very hungry people as a side dish or four normal appetites) 2 T. olive oil 1 medium onion, sliced 1/2 large fennel bulb, sliced 1 small zucchini 1 small yellow squash 1 Japanese eggplant grape tomatoes, or plum tomatoes sprinklings of chopped fresh herbs. I used thyme, rosemary and oregano salt, pepper topping:  1/4 cup parmesan cheese 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs 1 T. butter

  1. Saute the onions and the fennel in the olive oil until caramelized. This should take about 30-40 minutes. Place in the bottom of an oiled oven-proof casserole. The one I used measured 10 inches by 7 inches at the widest points.
  2. Slice the zucchini, squash and eggplant about 1/8 inch thick. Slice the grape tomatoes in half, or if using plum tomatoes, about 1/8 inch thick. Arrange atop the fennel/onion mixture in shingled fashion. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh herbs.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan and turn off the heat. Add the parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and blend well.
  4. Sprinkle the topping over the casserole
  5. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 1/2 hour at 400 degrees.
  6. Remove the foil and bake at 425 for another 10 minutes or until the topping is browned.
This Post Has 40 Comments
  1. linda che bella ricetta!!! Mi spiace, ma il mio blog si è perso il tuo commento sui lamponi…. è un periodo che fa così… Ho letto bene? eri in alaska? Ti sei divertita? grazie comunque e un bacione e buon we

  2. linda che bella ricetta!!! Mi spiace, ma il mio blog si è perso il tuo commento sui lamponi…. è un periodo che fa così… Ho letto bene? eri in alaska? Ti sei divertita? grazie comunque e un bacione e buon we

  3. Linda that is a gorgeous gratin…my mouth is watering!
    I am going to try your recipe as soon as I dare turn the oven on!

  4. LOVE the breadcrumb topping on the tian!
    and I always use the ladie's room at that Princeton library when I get to town, it's my first stop!
    It's nice and clean!

  5. Your library sounds like a fantastic resource.

    This is a wonderful way to use a garden's bounty! It is almost a shame to cover the beautifully arranged vegetables with the bread crumb/cheese mixture, but the taste must be magnificent.

  6. Cooking demo's at a library?, how cool is that, I wish mine did! Your gratin is perfect for summer and a great use for all my garden veggies I'm starting to pick.

  7. My kind of meal, forget side dish, my main meal. I am trying it as soon as I can go to purchase a fennel bulb. I have always just used a large onion and a shallot, but I want the fennel now that I have seen your recipe. I have made my own bread crumbs a couple of times, but I need to ask you how (what bread, how you crush to crumbs) the crumbs you used for this because I know yours will be so much better than mine.

  8. This looks so delicious–I can hardly wait to make it!
    I really enjoy your blog and recipes! Great job!

  9. Wow! A food that I can actually eat! 🙂 Although I can't have tomatoes, but I'm going to have to try it anyways without the tomatoes.

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Irresistable indeed! Can't wait to try it! And I'll definitely need to check out the cooking demos at the Princeton library.

  11. Wow wow wow! Che splendido blog! Foto grandi, ricette sfiziose… di tutto e di più! Complimenti davvero! 🙂

  12. Libraries are the most wondrous of places. Lucky you! And this summer gratin begs to be made. I even have a Japanese eggplant ready to be picked! I could feast on this scrumptious dish daily and enhance my vegetable intake. I think I'll just make your recipes for my blog reporting!

  13. This looks so lovely- I was just browsing through Tastespotting for some vegetarian main dishes and I found your blog- bookmarking! :o)

    Your library sounds great- it's beautiful too! My local library is hosting Rick Bayless soon.

    You should tell your children's librarian friend to check out this site: It's a great resource she could point parents to so they can find books that are interesting and appropriate for their kids.

  14. I just made this! It was amazing! Thank you so much. I really enjoyed the fennel as well because I don't use it too much but really love the flavor. This was a great way to incorporate it and it was FANTASTIC!

    Thanks so much!

  15. This dish really epitomizes all that summer produce has to offer Linda – beautiful – now if I could only get my husband to eat squash!!

  16. What a fabulous dish. It looks and sounds beautiful. I love gratins and this would fit perfectly with many of my meals. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings…Mary

  17. Linda how can you make something so messy look so perfect?? When I make a gratin they are not at all as beautiful!

    And I want to go to that amazing library. I could spend hours and days there.


  18. What a beautiful dish, Linda. A summer star – I can't wait to make it, but I have to wait for more tomatoes to ripen. I wish I had planted some fennel; maybe next year.
    And your library is spectacular!

  19. I found your link on TheKitchn and made this for dinner last night…it was delicious! Great use of fresh summer veggies, thanks!

  20. WOW! This looks beautiful and sounds delicious!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog, and for the kind comment 🙂

  21. Made this for a BBQ this weekend. It was stunning and had barely anything left once the party was done. Thanks for sharing.

  22. I was ready to comment on your fabulous Alaskan cruise and then as I scrolled down this recipe caught my eye. It looks just like something that I would enjoy! So nice stopping by!

  23. The pictures were so beautiful that I had to make this recipe (found it through a friend on Facebook). I habitually change all recipes to fit my own tastes and available ingredients. So, I added purple potatoes and another kind of squash (a little round summer one). I also nixed the parm in the bread crumbs. I made the bread crumbs out of challah and layered raw goat cheese into the squash. Probably too much info… but it worked and was delicious. I've never enjoyed squash so much. Made me hungry just writing about it.

    I love experimenting with recipes so I'm sure I'll be reading your blog a bit from now on.

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