I knew I’d be making this recipe as soon as I saw the bounty of squash we received in our last box. It’s one of my favorites, and I’ve made a few modifications to incorporate more Local Box ingredients. Fresh squash and baby onions mix with an oregano-parsley pesto, cheese, and brown-butter breadcrumbs to make a dish that’s fresh and decadent. Yum.
Now, as written, this recipe can be time-consuming, but I’m including some suggestions at the bottom to facilitate weeknight cooking.
Summer Squash Gratin (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
zest of one lemon
2 pounds summer squash or zucchini, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 baby onions (about 3-4 in. in diameter), thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 cups fresh bread crumbs*
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (or Swiss cheese)
Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Rub a 13×9 baking dish with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with lemon zest, and set aside.
Place the zucchini slices into a colander placed over a sink, toss with the sea salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes (to drain a bit — this softens them up and makes them cook more quickly) and go on to prepare the pesto and bread crumbs.
Make the pesto by pureeing the oregano, parsley, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, red pepper flakes, and olive oil in a food processor or using a hand blender. Set aside.
Make the breadcrumbs by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for about five minutes until the butter is fragrant and has turned brown. It will smell deliciously nutty. Stir the breadcrumbs into the browned butter.
Transfer the squash and onions to a large mixing bowl. Add the oregano pesto. Toss until everything is well coated. Add the cheese and half of the bread crumbs and toss again. Taste one of the zucchini pieces and add more seasoning (salt or red pepper) if needed.
Transfer the squash mixture to the lemon-zested pan, top with the remaining crumbs, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes When the dish is finished, you’ll be able to slide a fork easily into the zucchini.
Serves about 8 as a side.
*To make breadcrumbs, tear bread into pieces the size of your thumb, and pulse in a food processor. I like my breadcrumbs a bit larger than the ones you buy at the store, about the size of small pebbles. You can certainly use store-bought breadcrumbs instead of making your own, but reduce the amount to 1 cup, as these are much finer than homemade ones.
To facilitate weeknight cooking, do the following:
- Use store-bought pesto instead of making your own. Basil would be good, but I’ve seen a Classico sun-dried tomato pesto that I’d love to try.
- Slice the squash and onions and grate the cheese the night before.
- Use store-bought breadcrumbs (see note above).