Last summer Karina and I planted delightful little yellow summer squash in our garden, and while we had to share them with the mice (no really, Karina saw little mice leaving little nibble marks on the little summer squashes), I absolutely loved having a subsidized squash income. We probably buy between 5-15 summer squash a week at the farmer’s market during the summer, which actually extends from May to September or later. You may be wondering what on earth we could possibly do with that many summer squash, and honestly, I am too. This week it was two batches of muffins (4 medium summer squash) and one batch of summer squash gratin (4 medium summer squash of various shapes and colors). Next week? I’m sure I’ll think of something.
Summer Squash Gratin
4 medium summer squash of any color or shape, cut into rounds
1/2 onion, diced
2 medium or 4 small tomatoes, diced
Generous sprig of basil
1/2 cup or more of fontina cheese, grated
1/4 cup of parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Saute the onion in a small non-aluminum and non-cast-iron pot until soft. Add the diced tomatoes to the onion and salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce cook down while cooking the summer squash, but stir the sauce regularly. When the sauce has cooked down to a consistency you like, transfer it to a heat-proof bowl. Saute the summer squash in olive oil in a single layer until the slices are slightly browned on both sides. Salt and pepper the slices on one side as they cook. I use a cast-iron pan for this and saute the summer squash in batches. When each batch is done, put the cooked summer squash in the bowl with tomato sauce and stir to coat the summer squash in sauce (the sauce may not be done by the time the first batch is done, which is absolutely fine). When all the summer squash is cooked and mixed with the tomato sauce, chop the basil leaves and mix them in, tasting for salt and pepper. Coat one large or a couple smaller oven-safe baking dishes with olive oil and fill them with the summer squash mixture. Top each dish off with a thin layer of parmesan and a thicker layer of fontina cheese. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and browned slightly. I recommend checking the gratin every 10 minutes or so after the first 20 minutes.
The first recipe I read for a Zucchini Gratin was from The Book of French Provincial Cooking by Hilaire Walden. That recipe calls for bread crumbs on top in addition to the cheese, and the zucchini are all cooked at once. I prefer each summer squash slice to be slightly seared on both sides, but if you’re short on time or your apartment gets too hot when the stove is on for more than 5 minutes, it will still be delicious if you cook the summer squash all at once. Also, gruyere or any other melty cheese works just as well as fontina.