Yesterday – August 8 – was “National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors Porch Day.” It sounds like a joke, but think about it. If you have a garden (or know someone who has a garden) chances are you’ve been up to your ears in zucchini and summer squash for a few weeks already. You might be sick of them. And looking for an excuse to sneak some on an innocent neighbor under cover of night. But this gratin might just rekindle your love of the ubiquitous summertime vegetable.
As delicious as my tea-smoked salmon with lavender and honey glaze was (Have you seen it yet? Entered to win some tea?), this gratin held its own. Served together, dinner was an event. I half expected fireworks to go off as I finished my plate. The squash bakes in their own juices until they are soft and delicate. The tomatoes begin to dry from the heat of the oven, leaving them sweet and intensely flavored. The sharp Parmesan and crisp breadcrumbs lend classic comfort. And then, there’s the unexpected. Instead of using italian seasonings, you take a little detour through the south of France thanks to fresh thyme and herbs de Provence (a mixture of savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and lavender).
Sure you may be reluctant to turn your oven on in the height of August. Wait for a rainy day if you must. But I wouldn’t wait. Really, it’s already so hot that having the oven on doesn’t seen to make it any worse. And even if it does, it’s totally worth it.
Thank you all for your support in trying to get my cioppino into the top 3 Bertolli Menu Items so I can share it at the Foodbuzz Festival later this week. Voting is now over and the final results are being tallied, but it’s looking pretty good! 🙂 I promised you that I would share my other entry – the one that wasn’t chosen to be on the menu – and thought that today would be a good day to share. Following my theme of “not Italian,” I decided to make some meatballs with a Middle Eastern flare. These tender lamb meatballs are flavored with a touch of cinnamon and simmered in a cumin-scented sauce. I served the over a bed of spaghetti squash and wilted spinach and topped them with some sauteed onion. I really liked how this looked just like traditional spaghetti and meatballs, but tasted nothing like it! I also thought that adding the cumin to the sauce was a nice way to transform jarred sauce into something a little more special. As with the cioppino, I thought that this was a strong entry, but I agree with the judges that the cioppino was slightly better. Shawn preferred this dish. [….]
I love acorn squash, but I usually only ever have it one way – baked with butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup. I’ve been eating it that was ever since I was a kid and its delicious. Like candy. But I don’t really think my dinner should taste like candy, which is why I decided to switch it up this time and take a more savory approach to the squash. Erika from Itzy’s Kitchen inspired me to try stuffing the squash – she’s been making some beautiful stuffed squashed lately that are packed with vegetables and look wonderful. Like the pumpkin gnocchi with mushrooms and chestnuts that I posted the other day, this dish went through a few incarnations before I settled on the final version: a southwestern styles acorn squash stuffed with black beans and chorizo and toped with melted cheese. [….]