Summer Vegetable Gratin

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Life is back to normal. And by normal, I mean consumed by school work.

Last week Jonji and I ventured over to Sqirl to celebrate Todd and Jessica’s recent engagement. We had tried to go before with a large group, but gave up after we deemed the wait too long. This time we actually stayed in line, which was SO worth it. For starters, we were standing right next to an adorable puppy, which makes any line more bearable. Once we had finally made it through the line, we got to order. We each got our own dish—I got a delicious open-faced sandwich with arugula, onion jam, and an egg on top—and shared a chocolate and hazelnut-butter toast plus one jam-stuffed french toast, each of which were the size of an iPad but ten times the height. Needless to say, those dessert toasts were absolutely incredible. Well done, Sqirl.

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It has been uncomfortably hot here in the last couple weeks, an issue that mainly manifests itself in my feet while I’m trying to sleep. The other night I actually rubber-banded a couple ice packs to my feet, which was a pretty genius idea, if I do say so myself. The heat has also resulted in my renewed struggle with the Otis AC system and my AC-less car. Dressing for school is definitely as hard as any math problem I’ve ever done.

Going back to school was quite a shock for me, seeing as I spent my whole summer making prints and reading. I forgot how much homework we get, and how much of a commitment each class is. But I also remembered how much I love being challenged, as well as the satisfaction of overcoming a workload that I didn’t think I could finish. On the whole, I think, I prefer to have things to do.

Yesterday I had to complete an entire project for one of my core classes, which meant that I got to rummage around in the yard outside our apartment with some tape and my camera just to find potential photo-worthy areas. I also ventured across the street for inspiration. Halfway across the road my camera strap became unattached and my new camera fell(!!!) on the concrete. I let out a strangled shriek, picked it up and checked frantically for scratches or dings. Miraculously, it didn’t get a single scratch. Thank you, camera gods. Still debating whether or not that photo of the pile of dirt was worth it, though.

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Side note: I have decided to add a new addition to the Feast site: cookbook reviews. There are so many cookbooks out there that I think it would be useful for others to know which ones work best in certain situations, and which books are tried-and-true in my own kitchen. I also just signed up for a program with Penguin Random House, called Blogging For Books, which is SO cool: if you have a blog you can sign up and receive books in the mail to review. I mean, how cool is that?? So, if you want to read the reviews go for it, and if you don’t, I won’t be offended. Very much. To see the first review, click here.

Cooking with my new schedule has been a challenge, but I’m getting it down. It’s all about strategy, in both meal planning and grocery shopping. Whenever I have the chance, I try to do a little cookbook research into what’s in season now so as to take advantage of the best vegetables and fruits at the market. Lately, that has been tomatoes, summer squash, and peppers. The following dish contains two out of those three, plus a little eggplant action. I always thought all gratins were on the richer side, but this one is quite light and fresh. Get these vegetables at the market before Fall rolls around!

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Summer Vegetable Gratin
serves 6

1 large yellow onion, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp thyme leaves

1 medium eggplant
1 zucchini
1 medium summer squash
2 large tomatoes, heirloom or otherwise
olive oil
salt

5 sprigs thyme
parmesan, roughly 1/2 cup grated

Heat the butter and approximately 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and turn the heat down to medium-low. Season with a generous 1/4 tsp salt. Cook, without letting the onion color, for about 20 minutes. Add the 1 tbsp thyme halfway through.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

While the onion cooks, slice the zucchini, squash, and eggplant into 1/4 inch thick pieces (each piece should be roughly the same size). Toss in a large bowl with a few good glugs of olive oil (roughly 1/4 cup) and about 1/2 tsp salt. Core the tomatoes and then slice them into pieces the same size as the other vegetables. Sprinkle with a little salt and olive oil.

Once the onions are done, spread them on the bottom of a 9 x 12 inch baking dish. Next, make a line of overlapping zucchini along the edge, like fish scales, stretching the length of the dish. Do the same with the squash, the eggplant, and then the tomato. Repeat until the entire dish is full. Sprinkle over the rest of the thyme leaves, and grate a generous amount of parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour or so, until all of the veggies can easily be pricked with a knife. Enjoy!

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