a home cook with notions & an appetite
The photos in this post do not reflect how good all of this really tasted. The browning looks closer to burned than it was in real life and I don’t want that to distract from how delicious all of this was. That being said, this is the perfect time of year to run out and grab these ingredients from a farmer’s market, garden or grocer with a “sourced locally” section. It doesn’t get any better than this – and if you’ve ever wondered whether or not eating seasonally makes a difference, eat this now and then try making it in the winter with ingredients that are trekked in from around the world and know why picking things raw so they can ship for weeks on end is simply not the same.
The word “gratin” can conjure up images of thick, cheesy sauces and a heavy side-dish stuffed with gummy potatoes. So what’s a summer gratin? Everything that dish isn’t. So here’s that list of in season ingredients I mentioned:
Should I even pretend these are knife skills involved in my prep here? Hah! You know I have a mandolin. And a cut glove that’s all safe and keeps me out of the emergency room and away from tetanus shots. Of course, I know this is protocol because I did cut myself on a mandolin before owning a cut glove and it was serious enough to warrant a trip not to the emergency room, but to an urgent care where they still insisted on a tetanus shot. I’m rambling, but let’s just call it a precautionary tale and move on with our gratin.
Here I am doing the remainder of the pre-prep for this dish before we get to the real prep – cooking onions (I’m grating fresh garlic into the onions while they cook on medium-low for 20 minutes where I’ll toss in the tablespoon of thyme at the end), tossing the squashes and eggplant in salt and olive oil and mixing the breadcrumbs, cheese and teaspoon of thyme together.
The art comes in the layering the gratin. Onions only on the bottom, then a sort of row-by-row layering of yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes that is reversed on the way back. Between each layer, a few tablespoons of the cheese, breadcrumb mixture. It’s topped with the remaining breadcrumb mixture, a little extra salt and then it’s ready for the preheated 350 degree oven. It bakes for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the vegetables are tender – basically when I felt no resistance at all when I poked my gratin with a knife, this was just about done. I took it out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes while the broiler preheated.
This was placed under the broiler for a last-minute browning and the eggplant took to it a bit more than the rest of the veggies. They still crisped up just right, so it’s a matter of being so ugly that it was beautiful for me. Honestly, the seasoning is so simple, but the flavor? AMAZING. You don’t miss the gloppy cheese and this is one of the few ways husband appreciates eggplant. It’s just enough crispy and soft to go around and the layered flavors work out just right.