Thursday, August 21, 2014

Zucchini Gratin

This Sunday at at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, you can look forward to a selection of pastured chicken, lamb, and pork cuts from Fair Valley Farm, handcrafted vegan hazelnut cheese from Avellana Creamery, and beautiful fresh cut flower bouquets from Tiger Lily Art CompanyGood Food Easy at Sweetwater Farm will have the following offerings:  

lots of tomatoes, including cherries and flats of romas (roasted and sprinkle with basil)
sweet and hot peppers of all kinds peppers and eggplants (make ratatouille)
Gravenstein apples from SLO farm (delicious in salad with scallions and bacon)
NW peaches and blackberries
green and yellow beans (make a school color salmon salad)
tomatillos and daikon radish (try tofu banh mi
fennel and cucumbers (make pickles)
baby beets and new potatoes
carrots and kohlrabi (try roasted with cumin)
crookneck squash, summer squash, and zucchini (try this gratin)
cabbage (green, red, savoy) (make kimchi)
radicchio, chard, kale, lettuce, including bagged mix 
garlic and fresh herbs (basil, oregano, sage, thyme) and home-grown lemon grass

Preserves, Beans, and Grains
From Sweet Creek Foods:
Dill Pickles, Chili Dill Pickles, Bread 'N Butter Pickles, Pickle Relish
Blueberry, Strawberry, Blackberry, and Raspberry Fruit Spreads
Enchilada Sauce and Salsa
From SLO Farm: Applesauce
Assorted beans and grains from Camas Country Mill

On a recent trip to my sister's, I rediscovered a couple of childhood cookbooks that my mother had purchased for us in France. The two volumes from Pomme D'Api feature simple recipes accompanied by pictures of charming French five year olds in the process of executing each dish. I remember pouring over these photos with fascination, marveling at these strange contemporaries preparing sardine toasts and ham rolls in aspic. American children's cookbooks are typically devoted to sweet, baked goods, and even the better ones (like Mollie Katzen's Pretend Soup, source of great popovers), don't stray from a limit repertoire of perceived "kid friendly" fare. The idea that children will only eat a few bland, vegetable-free dishes, epitomized by the uninspired children's menus in US restaurants, doesn't exist in France, where children are raised to eat four course meals in nursery school. For my sister and I, these fascinating volumes showed small children not only consuming "grow up" food, but preparing it with great confidence. And they inspired us to try to do the same. The greatest revelation was that many of these new dishes were easy and delicious.

One of our favorites was "un gratin de courgette," which transformed zucchini, an under-loved and over-abundant summertime product of our garden, into a decadent, pillowy soufflé infused with the strong flavor of gruyère and the richness of crème fraîche. Of course, upon rediscovering these volumes, my sister and I had to recreate this gratin. When we baked it in our childhood, we'd had to make all sorts of guesses about the ingredients list (volume of "un petit pot de crème fraîche" or "un verre de lait"?) but now with internet searching, we could  track down these numbers. The final dish was just as wonderful as I remembered, the perfect centerpiece for a weekend brunch with roasted plum tomatoes and fresh green beans, but unfortunately our American children would have nothing to do with it. I'm hopeful that after pouring over these books, their attitudes will change.

Un Gratin de Courgette
1 kg (2.2 lb or 4 to 5 medium sized) zucchini
3 eggs
100 g (scan 1/2 cup) crème fraîche (which you can make yourself, or use sour cream)
120 ml (1/2 cup) milk
100 g (3.5 ounces) grated gruyère cheese
salt and pepper

1. Gather your ingredients. The recipe calls for "courgette déjà cuites et bien égouttées" (zucchini already cooked and well drained). We decided to slice, steam, and drain them in a colander, which worked well to remove excess liquid that would leach into the gratin. One could also shred, salt, and strain the zucchini and use directly or sauté first.

2. Beat the eggs.

3. Mix in the crème fraîche, milk, grated gruyère, salt and pepper.

4. Mix in the cooked and well-drained zucchini.

5. Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish.

6. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

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