Can you have fun creating a gratin? Absolutely yes! Because there are no rules. It’s just a matter of using what you have on hand.
We all know and love rich, creamy potato gratins, but during the summer months, it’s fun and easy to create your own customized gratin using your garden vegetables or those from a farmer’s market. And because summer veggies are more watery than potatoes, no cream is required.
A gratin isn’t absolutely necessary, but sometimes you get tired of roasting and grilling and steaming. A gratin just provides a slightly fancier layered dish that is delicious. Plus you can add cheese, so it’s definitely a different kind of win-win vegetable dish.
Today I had a lot of summer squash and zucchini, so that’s what made me decide to make a gratin. This gratin is not seasoned to speak of, because I served it with some grilled chicken breasts topped with my home-made pesto (which contains no cheese). So I left things simple so the wonderful ripe vegetables could shine. Here you go…
Squash, sliced thinly with a mandolin
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
3 ounces sliced pancetta
6 ounces grated cheese of choice, I used pecorino
Salt and Pepper
Choose a dish, preferably a relatively deep baking dish. It can be square or round, it doesn’t matter. Then pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Begin adding the zucchini and summer squash rounds to the dish in a layer. Season with salt and pepper.
Then add the slices of one tomato. Season with salt and pepper again. Add some of the grated cheese. In my case, I just happened to have some buffalo mozzarella left over, so I used that. Anything that melts well and will help hold the layers together will work.
Continue with the remaining zucchini and squash, and tomato slices. Then top everything with the pancetta. Pancetta is completely unnecessary, but I thought would add some nice flavor to the vegetables.
Then top with the remaining cheese.
Bake the dish covered with foil for 45 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking for about 15 minutes. It should look like this:
Now, there will be water in the bottom of the baking dish from the vegetables. You can either let everything cool and then carefully pour off the water, or, use a baster like you would use for your turkey, and remove the water from around the edges and discard. This is just inevitable because of the amount of water that is in vegetables. But this is also why no cream is required to make this kind of gratin!
Because of the water issue, your gratin will shrink, as well. So when you make it, try to get it to the top of the baking dish as much as you can. If you’re concerned about overflow, place the baking dish on a cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan first.
To serve this gratin, you can dish it out with a spoon like my husband did when I wasn’t looking, or slice it into pretty wedges.
So hopefully I’ve inspired you to make your own vegetable gratin. You can layer the vegetable slices with sautéed onion rings for more flavor if you wish, and of course you can season with herbs of choice. You could even brush individual layers with pesto, and dot them with sun-dried tomatoes! It really doesn’t matter what you do – trust me, it will work!