It’s that time of year. The time when farmer’s markets abound with a profusion of summer produce: eggplants and pattypan squash and green zucchini with their bright yellow cousins. Ears of corn call to be shucked and eaten raw, right off the cobb. An abundance of tomatoes and basil sends one rushing for the good olive oil and oozy burrata. Beautiful golden squash blossoms call out to be stuffed and fried… Even at work, one of my coworkers with a prolific garden brings in trayfuls of her extra produce, to be snatched up by the garden-slackers (i.e., me).
One of the more simple and straightforward dishes from Ad Hoc At Home is Chef Keller’s Summer Vegetable Gratin, which incorporates eggplants, squashes and tomatoes — all those beautiful and abundant seasonal veggies — arranged attractively in a baking dish. Unlike the Mar i Muntanya recipe I had made the same day, there was not (thankfully) much advance or separate prep required. No advance brining required, no cooking or prep of another entirely separate component (ok, ok, except for the bread crumbs – but shhhh, don’t tell anyone).
The key here is choosing vegetables which are at their seasonal best, and in as uniform a shape as you can find. Not all vegetables are appropriate – Keller takes the beauty of round squashes, eggplants and tomatoes and features them to great effect in his presentation. As before, I’m not reprinting the recipe in its entirety, just giving general directions/ guidance.
Summer Vegetable Gratin
- 1 each of: Japanese or other long, thin Asian eggplant; Roma or other uniformly-round tomatoes, yellow and green zucchini.
- Breadcrumbs (Keller has a recipe; I just used panko)
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Sea or Kosher Salt
- Fresh Thyme, chopped
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Cut the vegetables into uniform rounds. Throw into a bowl and toss with salt and olive oil.
3) Mix the parmesan, breadcrumbs and chopped thyme.
4) When you’re ready to layer, arrange one row of the same vegetable in an overlapping stream in your 12×5-inch pan (see photo above). Top each veg strip with about a Tbs of the cheese and breadcrumb mixture. Repeat with the other vegetables – depending on the size of the original squashes, you should have veg enough for about 3 layers.
5) Sprinkle the rest of the cheese and breadcrumbs on top of the gratin.
6) Place in the oven and cook for 45-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the gratin slides in easily.
And there you have it – the resulting dish definitely highlights the lovely fresh flavours of summer veggies – the toasty breadcrumbs and herbs and cheese providing some flavour and textural interest, but the emphasis is rightfully on our gain from the abundance of summer sun, heat and tasty produce.