Summer Squash Gratin Recipe

A decadent, crunchy-topped summer squash gratin made from thinly sliced summer squash, potatoes, oregano pesto, and brown-buttered breadcrumbs- all baked at high-temperature until the squash is tender and the top is crunchy.

Summer Squash Gratin

Someone was asking me in the comments the other day about my food routines. They were curious about how often I shop, my favorite stores here in SF, when I cook - that sort of thing. I'm also curious about your food routines, so I thought I'd share mine in the hope that you would share a bit about yours as well. I should also work a recipe in here, so I decided to highlight a decadent, crunchy-topped summer squash gratin I made last week. It was inspired by a mountain of summer squash I encountered at the farmers' market - yellow squash, green squash, patty pans, globes, and others I couldn't even identify. The gratin recipe features lots it, thinly sliced, with new potatoes, an oregano pesto, and brown-buttered breadcrumbs all baked at high-temperature until the squash is tender and the top is crunchy. I used a mix of yellow and green squash, but you can certainly experiment with whatever you have on hand, or whatever your garden might be producing.

Summer Squash Gratin Recipe

So, the cornerstone of my food routine is a weekly trip to one of the nearby farmers' markets. I stock up on whatever looks good, and typically that means lots of vegetables, a dozen+ farm-fresh eggs, some tofu, seasonal fruit, almond butter, bread, etc. If I end up running low on anything between markets I walk over to Bi-Rite Market and pick it up there. They source ingredients from many of the local farms around here, and even grow some of their own crops now.

Once or twice a month I like to go to Rainbow Grocery or Whole Foods and stock up on pantry staples. I hit the bin section for interesting whole grains, flours, beans, lentils, and that sort of thing. Beyond that, if I'm at the Ferry Building I love to stop in to see what is available at Boulette's Larder - beautiful, rare, artisanal sugars, spice blends, grains, oils, and vinegars. I always come across something special and inspiring there.

As far as beverages go - I love to visit Keri at Biondivino. She carries lots of the small Italian wine producers I like. Or I'll pick up a few bottles after chatting with Josh over at Bi-Rite - I walk there, so that keeps my purchasing in check. Wine can get heavy ;) Wayne is in charge of most beer runs, and lucky for us, one of the best destinations for artisan beers is a short five minute walk - Healthy Spirits. Wayne is also the barista and tea brewer around here - we buy a lot of Blue Bottle beans, and order tea from Sebastian at In Pursuit of Tea.

So, generally speaking, I'm mindful of what I buy, I shop close to home, and (stating the obvious) I cook quite a bit. A few people have asked how much I spend on food. I think I cook on the cheap - kinda. I'd never try to represent myself as a bargain shopper, but because I don't spend money on meat, fish, or poultry, it is easier for me to spend money on great olive oil, eggs, or perfect cherries - and still come out ahead financially. I happily pay $6 - $8/ per dozen eggs, and good cheese is another higher-ticket item for me, but I typically use it as some sort of accent. Most of the organic grains and flours I buy cost between $1 - $2 per pound. Stunning, heirloom beans come in at about $5 per pound. And as anyone who has done it knows - cook a pound of dried beans and you have a whole lot of food on your hands. The organic summer squash I used in this recipe today cost $2 per pound.

I'm sure I'm forgetting things, but if that's the case I'll add as I remember (forgive me!)

Onto the gratin - all you squash growers have got to give this one a go this summer - it is as decadent as I get, plenty of olive oil and butter here, but sooo worth it.

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Summer Squash Gratin Recipe

Be sure to slice your potatoes as thin as possible. They get all melty and creamy. Slice them too thick and you'll have trouble cooking them through because the zucchini cooks up more quickly. I use a box grater to shred the cheese here (as opposed to a micro-plane) - you get heartier, less whispy pieces of cheese which is what you want here. I'd also strongly recommend homemade bread crumbs here (see asterisk below).

zest of one lemon
1 1/2 pounds summer squash or zucchini, cut into 1/6th-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

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 whole wheat bread crumbs*
1/2 pound waxy potatoes, sliced transparently thin

3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese, grated on a box grater (or feta might be good!)

Preheat oven to 400F degrees and place a rack in the middle. Rub a 9x9 gratin pan (or equivalent 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) and go on to prepare the oregano sauce and bread crumbs.

Make the sauce 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 a few minutes until the butter is wonderfully fragrant, and has turned brown. Wait two minutes, then stir the breadcrumbs into the browned butter.

Transfer the squash to a large mixing bowl. Add the potatoes and two-thirds of the oregano sauce. 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 to the lemon-zested pan, top with the remaining crumbs, and bake for somewhere between 40 and 50 minutes - it will really depend on how thinly you sliced the squash and potatoes - and how much moisture was still in them. You don't want the zucchini to go to mush, but you need to be sure the potatoes are fully baked. If the breadcrumbs start to get a little dark, take a fork and rake them just a bit, that will uncover some of the blonder bits. Remove from oven, and drizzle with the remaining oregano sauce.

Serves about 8 as a side.

*To make breadcrumbs cut the crust off 2-3 day old artisan bread. Tear into pieces the size of your thumb, and give a quick whirl in the food processor. I don't like my breadcrumbs too fine - and tend to leave the pieces on the large size - more like little pebbles than grains of sand.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Comments

Well, I live in Canada where we have winter 6 months of the year, so I just got my squash plants into the ground a couple weeks ago! However, I can buy it in the grocery stores and do have some in the fridge right now. Favourite place to shop would be the Byward market in downtown Ottawa where local farmers from both Ontario and Quebec bring their wares, the Fish market close to where I live, a Bulk barn Store, and an Italian deli/market also nearby where I can buy wonderful oils and vinegars, cheeses, homemade Italian sausage, etc. Thanks for your ideas which are always inspiring. You're a really neat person!

I love your recipes and reading your posts. Some of your recipes, notably those containing ingredients like tofu, I wouldn't use but I love the vegetable ones, as side dishes. This squash recipe sounds great, but as you put it, decadent. I generally bake squash very simply with just some seasonings and a bit of olive oil, to use instead of pasta with Italian sauce/meatballs. This squash recipe will be great for a group though. Thanks for your postings.

MaryJane

I have to prepare squash at a farmers market next weekend here in Alabama and this is an awesome idea. Thanks so much, Alison

I have a big bag of summer squash and was wondering what to do with it. Thanks for the fabulous idea. This is perfect. M.

We get a CSA box from South Central Farmers so that dictates our dinners for the week. We try use up as many greens, squash, parsley, etc, as possible. For other produce I go to a local produce market up the street. There isn't much of an organic choice, but its cheap, and family run. I am part of a co-op at my work. We buy raw milk, farm fresh eggs, bison meat, and honey together - and get great prices! For staples I go to Trader Joes because its cheap, and they have a lot of products that I like, but I don't like their produce! For special items I visit Wholefoods. I always stock up on items in the bulk bins. But what I buy from there is limited because of the prices! Recently I've become a part of a group that buys wholesale from Frontier and I love it! It takes some planning but its worth it. I haven't actually written this down before and now that I have it looks tedious! But its not that bad! It takes a lot of planning for me to do things right and economically. But I think its worth it!

That recipes looks wonderful! Here's a great way to cook zucchini when you get inundated with a bumper crop--cut into 1/4-1/2 inch thick rounds, and pan-roast with whole garlic cloves in olive oil in a chef's pan or a saute pan (enough oil to lightly coat the whole pan). The trick is to turn the rounds only once and get a nice brownish crust on each side. Toss in your favorite (cooked and drained) pasta into the pan when the zucchini is done and garnish with grated parmesian, salt and pepper to taste. As for routines, I'm into my second year gardening and my third year in a CSA. That coupled with my local weekly Farmer's Market pretty much shapes my grocery shopping, which is mostly for staples or if I'm making a particular recipe for a special event. It almost turns cooking into a Food Network style challenge, as I tailor my cooking to whatever I get in my CSA box or what needs to be picked in the garden or what looks good at the Farmer's Market that I don't already have. I know that would drive some people nuts, but it's something I really enjoy and allows me to really get creative and experiment with my food.

Suzi

Thanks so, so, so, so much for this post. I find I'm at a loss sometimes at the store or farmers market - I want to take everything home, but sometimes the food will go to waste, and there are all kind of recipes that I want to try...I guess I need to find my "culinary focus." :) Thanks again!!

Rachelteehee

Perfect, I didn't know what to do with my squashes (I get so bored with the normal veg mix)... this is great. I've got parmesan and goat cheese in the fridge... would either work or mix well? hmm..

anna

Yummy squash gratin! I usually shop at a local grocery store called "Adams Fair Acre" farm and they carry a lot of local, gourmet and fresh foods. There is also a nice organic market that I like to shop at. They have tons of wonderful fresh spices that you can buy in bulk.

Heidi, all your recipes look so good - I found your site a few weeks ago and have made the sushi bowls a few times and the otsu. I think I'll make this one tonight, it looks so yummy and comforting for a relaxing evening to end the work week. My routine involves stopping at Golden Produce on my way home. They have an amazing selection of fresh organic produce and dry/bulk goods at really reasonable prices. I actually prefer them to Bi-rite (unless we're talking Bi-rite Creamery!) I usually stop by every 2-3 days, that way I don't have to plan too far ahead, and I also don't have to worry about my veggies going bad if I end up changing my mind about what to make!

I have to say that I'm surprised you don't belong to a CSA, Heidi. The variety, never know what will come week to week, I would think appealing to you. Have you had a membership in the past and not liked it? HS: I love CSAs and I love programs like the Mariquita Mystery Box, but I also like to browse the markets and cherry-pick exactly what I want to cook. I inherit the occasional CSA box when friends go out of town, and love trying to figure out what to make from the contents.

Henna

It was fun to read your hangouts in SF. I am there once a month or so, and next time I am going to pay a visit to Boulette's Larder for some hard to find items not available in my small town. Thank you for all your inspiring information and tasty dishes.

I am new to SF and hit many of the same spots you do -- Rainbow for bulk, Brian's for meat/ fish, the farmer's markets or Asian markets on Clement for veggies and kumquats and other wacky "stuff." But I still have to go to Trader Joe's at least 1-2 times/ month. The cost of food and living is so much higher here it only makes sense. Thanks for the confirmation I am hitting the right spots!

This looks great. I make a vaguely similar dish, though more of a casserole, with summer squash, quinoa, eggs, sour cream, cheddar, and a few other ingredients that I'm forgetting now. It is a much-tweaked version of an old cooking light recipe. But i think i make have to break routine to give this a try! food routines: During the farmer's market season (may - nov here), i go to our local market once a week (Saturdays). It doesn't have nearly the selection that yours does, though... no beans/tofu/almond butter! BUt I get produce and eggs, a loaf of bread, occasionally bacon or another kind of meat. Then on Monday I usually go to Whole Foods for dairy, back-up produce (lemons, avocados, ingredients that i cannot give up but cannot source locally), and beans/grains/other pantry staples. I am not vegetarian, but tend to cook mostly meatless, and agree that at times vegetarian meals can save $. Though throw in one expensive cheese and the grocery bill can shoot through the roof!

Betsy

What a beautiful gratin! I can't wait until my zucchini and other squash are ripe. Every summer, I await the opening of my favorite farm stand. It belongs to a local farmer who grows everything organically. If she's not at the stand, she leaves a coffee can of money so that people can add up their own purchases and make change. She has the most beautiful eggplants! We stock up on quite a few of our staples at Costco (thank goodness for a big freezer). I have been quite impressed that they are expanding their selection of organic items.

Thank you for sharing this recipe! We have 4 yellow squash plants growing in the garden and I will really need this recipe when they start to produce.

Wow, picking up the first CSA box of the year today and praying for squash now! Thanks for this space; you are one of the people who keeps me fresh in the kitchen. Working all day and being the sole food preparer (my man has many talents but cooking is not one of them) can leave me feeling flat. I often come here looking for a recipe and leave inspired to create a meaningful meal. My sister (a Heidi) says one of the best things about the internet is that there is an unending supply of lentil and chickpea recipes and you are proof of that! Have a great weekend.

Heather

I live on the northwest side of Chicago, and luckily have access to several small local grocery store chains, as well as TONS of ethnic delis, bakeries, and corner store type markets. Most of the delis and bakeries are Italian and Polish, but we're also close to a great Korean grocery store, a great spice store, and a wonderful old world German butcher. This is great since we love to try new things and particularly love Polish and Korean food! We try to stick to fresh produce, rice/pasta, and meat, and stay as far away from processed stuff as possible. We've just joined our first CSA (www.homegrownwisconsin.com) this year, and our first pick up is next week! Can't wait!

Acher

Wow! This sounds absolutely delicious. believe it or not, I have never tried squash. I see it in the supermarket all the time and simply bypass it. I think the problem is that I have never known how to cook it or what to prepare it with. Now I do - on both counts! I am going to give this delicious sounding recipe a try. Thanks for sharing it.

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