Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cheesy Summer Squash Gratin with Parsley Pesto

Oh friends. I've missed you.

My blogging has been slim this summer, I know. I've been cooking though and I have a whole slew of recipes to post. Last summer, my unofficial theme was Eastern Mediteranean cuisine---mostly Greek with some Middle Eastern thrown in. This summer, any theme, official or unofficial has been thrown aside. I went through a no tomato sauce phase---tired of pasta with roasted eggplant. Homemade pita has seemed too time consuming this summer, so the mezze meal and souvlaki has been less frequent.

Instead, I have cooked whatever I have felt like---Turkish one day, Hill Country Texan the next day, Italian the next, and Vietnamese the following. I've been all over the place.

This recipe falls in the Hill Country Texan category, coming from Food52 via someone named Paula who is a chef in Austin (that narrows it down, doesn't it). It features summer squash, chiles, parsley, and mint, which all grow copiously in Austin (except for this year---our year of excessive heat and exceptional drought).

Curtis, my mom and I liked it. It was a way we could handle summer squash, one of our least favorite of all summer produce. Unfortunately, I made this in beginning of July and here it is the middle of August, the recipe on my iPad so I didn't scribble notes about the changes/adjustments I'd made. Sorry.

This will serve 4.

Cheesy Summer Squash Gratin with Parsley Pesto
adapted from Amanda Hesser on

1 t fresh oregano leaves (1/2 t dried)
1/4 c fresh mint, thick stems discarded
1 c parsley
1/2 - 3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1 anchovy
1 T capers, drained
1/2 lemon

2 lbs summer squash, slice 1/8" thin
1 1/2 c breadcrumbs
3 T butter
3/4 c sliced shallot, green onion, or regular onion (I used a regular onion)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 green chile (Hatch or Jalapeno, depending on how spicy you want it, choose your chile accordingly), seeded and finely chopped (the chile is optional, too)
1 c grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese

To make the pesto: Using a food processor, process the oregano, mint, and parsley to a paste. Add some olive oil and process a little more. Add the anchovy and garlic and pulse a few times to incorporate with the pesto. Add the capers a pulse a few more times---you don't want the capers smashed to smithereens. Transfer to a bowl and stir in more of the oil, adding a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the pesto is somewhat runny and pourable. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

To make the gratin: Toss the sliced summer squash in a bowl with 1 t salt and let set 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan heated over medium heat. Cook the butter until is browned (it will smell nutty). Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl, pour browned butter over top, scraping the pan to get all the browned bits stuck to the bottom, and toss well. Drain the sweated squash (it's called sweating because the salt draws the water out of the squash, making it look like it has, in fact, sweated) and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the onion (shallot, green onion, etc), garlic, thyme, chile (if using), 1/2 c of the pesto, and some pepper. Toss to combine. Add the cheese and half of the breadcrumbs. Toss again. Place the squash in a 9" round gratin dish or cast iron skillet (that's what I used). Top with the remaining bread crumbs and bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the top is crisp.

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