Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My least favorite food

I'll admit it, I do not like zucchini.  I find it flavorless and mushy.  I pick it out of soups, skip over it on grilled vegetable platters and never buy it at the grocery store.  My aversion was put to the test this week when our CSA brought us three giant summer squash, swollen with the spring rain.  Never one to let food go to waste, I was determined to find a recipe to change my mind.  On Food52, Amanda Hesser's fantastic site, I found the perfect dish.  It involved a lot of zucchini, yes, but also gruyere, bread crumbs, jalapeno and an herb packed sauce called "salsa verde" (a bonus because we could use some of the fresh oregano that came this week).  If any recipe can make me eat zucchini, I decided, this is it.

Sarah and I had Tovah over to enjoy the gratin, and the three of us finished the entire pan without hesitation.  The crunchy craggy top gave way to a cheesy moist interior that was anything but mushy or bland.  The salsa verde and jalapeno certainly made up for any lack of flavor.  With a small salad (also from CSA) and a baguette, the dish was hearty enough for dinner. 

This week's CSA take brought three more zucchini.  Thoroughly won over by last week's foray, I decided to try something simpler and see if last week I fell in love with the squash or just with the Gruyere.  Over at Smitten Kitchen I found the perfect recipe: sauteed zucchini with almonds and Parmesan.  Far simpler than the gratin, this still had the requisite fat, cheese and flavor (is that redundant?).  Though not as filling, this recipe turned out to be a keeper as well.  Not to mention it was insanely easy.  It will make a zucchini lover out of anyone.

Zucchini (or Summer Squash) Gratin with Salsa Verde
Adapted from Food52
Serves 3-4

For the Salsa Verde:
1 tsp. fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
1/4 c. chopped fresh mint
1 c. chopped fresh parsley
3/4 c. olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp. anchovy paste (or 1 anchovy)
1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

For the Gratin:
2 large summer squash, sliced into thin rounds
1 1/2 c. bread crumbs
3 tbs. butter, melted
1 minced shallot
1 clove minced garlic
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 c. grated Gruyere
Salt and pepper

1. Make the salsa: Using a food processor or blender, puree herbs with 1/2 c. olive oil.  Add the garlic and anchovy and puree again briefly.  Stir in the remaining oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

2. Make the gratin: Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the squash with 1 tsp. salt and let sit for ten minutes to draw out the water.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

3. Mix the breadcrumbs and butter in a small bowl.  To the squash add the shallots, garlic, thyme, jalapeno, 1/2 c. salsa and pepper.  Toss, then add the cheese and 1/2 the bread crumbs.  Toss and again and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place the squash in a 9-inch cast iron pan or gratin dish.  Sprinkle the top with the remaining bread crumbs.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the inside is tender and the top is crisp and browned.

Serve, with the remaining salsa on the side for dipping

Sauteed Zucchini with Almonds
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 3-4

1 large zucchini, or two smaller ones
2 tbs. olive oil
1/4 c. chopped raw almonds
Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

1. Julienne the zucchini, either by hand or with a mandolin

2. Heat olive oil in a pan.  When hot, add the almonds and saute until they smell nutty and begin to brown.

3. Add the zucchini to the pan.  Salt and pepper well (pepper is really key to the flavor here).  Stir for about one minute, then remove from heat.

4. Cover the squash with grated cheese to taste.  Serve.

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