GRATIN OF SUMMER VEGETABLES
We can make this recipe all summer long with vegetables from the supermarket but then, in early September, arrives the magic moment when every ingredient comes from the nearby farmers’ market. Vegetable gratin can be a first course or an accompaniment to lamb, chicken, or fish.
Serves 4 to 6
2 medium zucchini (about ¾ lb/330 g)
2 medium yellow or scallop squash (about ¾ lb/330 g)
1 1b/450 g tomatoes
3 onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
2 cups/400 g ready-made Pesto (see below)
Herb sprigs for decoration (optional)
8×11-in/20×28-cm gratin or baking dish
1. Heat the oven to 350˚F/175˚C and brush the gratin dish with olive oil. Wipe the zucchini and squash with damp paper towels and cut them into uneven ¾-in/2-cm chunks. Toss them in a large bowl. Core the tomatoes, cut them into chunks, and add them to the zucchini and squash with the onions, salt and pepper. Mix the pesto sauce into the vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and spread the mixture in the oiled baking dish.
2. Bake the gratin until the vegetables are very tender and brown, 40-50 minutes. If you like, decorate the vegetables with herb sprigs, and serve the gratin hot or at room temperature.
This classic Italian sauce, originally from Genoa, is used for hot pasta and pasta salads as well as a flavoring. Pesto (the word means ‘pounded’) is an Italian olive oil sauce with a multitude of uses and can be made with quite a variety of herbs. Basil, prized for its aroma, is the favorite, but mint, coriander, parsley and other leafy herbs are good, the more fragrant the better. To thicken and stabilize the sauce, nuts such as pine nuts or blanched almonds are added with chopped garlic and grated Parmesan cheese as the seasonings. In the old days, pesto was made in a mortar and pestle, but nowadays thank goodness a food processor takes away the hard work. This recipe makes 2 cups/500 ml of pesto.
Take a large bunch of fresh basil detach the basil leaves, discarding the stems; rinse the leaves only if they are gritty and dry them on paper towels. Measure 1 ½ cups/375 ml olive oil in a cup measure. If using a food processor: purée the basil leaves, 6 cloves of garlic, 1½ oz/45 g pine nuts and 4 oz/125 g Parmesan cheese with 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil, using the pulse button. With the blade turning, slowly add the remaining oil so the sauce emulsifies. The whole process takes only 1-2 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
If using a pestle and mortar: chop the basil leaves and add them to the mortar with the garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. With the pestle, mix and pound the ingredients until they are thoroughly combined and form a rustic smooth paste, 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the olive oil until the purée is well blended and smooth. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.