I've been happy to have been able to curate and coordinate The Book Tent at the Hudson Farmers' Market for this past summer. Every Saturday, at The Book Tent, which sits right along side all the
other market vendors (under a tent), we hosted cookbook authors who signed copies of their latest works and answered queries from curious shoppers. The authors braved the elements; pouring down rain and incredible heat - and sat, and smiled, and signed. Last Saturday we welcomed Ted Allen, the host of the Food Network's most popular program "Chopped". Ted is not just a host who was hired because of his dazzling personality - he's the real deal. He is a knowledgeable cook, and a student of food. All of this is reflected in his latest book, "In My Kitchen". A good read, it's full of information filled headnotes and sidebars, & it contains 100+ recipes brimming with combinations of ingredients destined to make a good dish. In a way it's an old fashioned cookbook arranged by chapters that begins with Starters and ends with Desserts, and Breakfasts and Brunches - you, know instead of by color, or place where the author found the recipe, or by cooking pots and pans, etc. Ben Fink's wonderful, natural light photographs complete the book.
As I drooled over each recipe, description and photograph I realized that I had all the ingredients required to make one of the book's appealing recipes.
PROVENCAL VEGETABLE GRATIN
Ted says, "This is a peak-of-summer southern French classic and a great way to showcase tomatoes and zucchini when they're abundant. Besides height-of-season produce, the key to the success of this dish is draining some of the vegetable juices so the gratin isn't watery." Well, it just so happens that we seem to be be at the peak of tomato season right now in the Hudson Valley and there are still plenty of zucchini around. I did tweak the recipe just a bit. Sometimes the ingredients you have don't have exactly the same properties as the creator of the recipe used. Keep your eyes open and use common sense. As you can see from my photograph my finished dish didn't exactly match Ted's. But the flavor was just as expected (summer in St. Tropez?). A cup of breadcrumbs and a cup of grated Parmesan cheese were listed for the topping. It was way too much. I used half of what I had mixed and put the other half in the freezer for future use. However, I give you Ted's recipe verbatim:
1 pound zucchini, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds
1 pound yellow squash, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds (I used 2 pounds of zucchini)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, preferably a mix of red and yellow, sliced into 1/4-inch slices (I used red, green and purple)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped (I used tiny fresh leaves, left unchopped)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dried coarse bread crumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Put the zucchini and squash in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, tossing a couple of times as you sprinkle so all the pieces get seasoned. Dump onto a large cooling rack over kitchen towels (or straight onto the towels), and let drain 45 minutes. Press the top with additional towels to dry the surface.
2. Meanwhile, arrange the tomato slices in one layer on kitchen towels and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; let sit for 30 minutes. With additional towels, lightly press on the tomatoes to remove more juice.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan or large gratin dish with the butter.
4. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over low heat, add the onion and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until soft and golden, 25 minutes.
5. In the gratin dish, layer the zucchini and squash, sprinkling with half of the thyme, half of the garlic, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Spread the onions evenly over the squash, and then layer the tomatoes, overlapping slightly, to cover. Sprinkle with the remaining garlic, thyme, and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake, uncovered for 35 minutes.
6. In a medium bowl, blend the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. remove the pan from the oven, and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Sprinkle the veggies with the Parmesan topping. Return the gratin to the oven and bake until the top is browned, up to 10 minutes, and serve.
I had some of the leftover gratin for lunch, baked with an egg on top.
SUSANSIMONSAYS: Here's what I had for breakfast one day recently: sliced green zebra tomatoes sitting on top of toasted and olive oiled pain ancienne topped with a poached egg. And, a glass of iced coffee. Here, in my house, it's still summer by day - even if it's definitely autumn at night.