Monday, July 7, 2014

Zucchini Gratin

Zucchini Gratin, inspired by Ina Garten

Our celebration for July 4th involved a cookout with a few friends, very low key this year. Ribs were prepared, and we each brought a side dish, easy on me, easy on the hostess. My contribution to the meal was a zucchini gratin. The reason for the zucchini dish is simple -- we have been the recipients of LOTS of zucchini. I'd made a huge pot of ratatouille ( You can find my recipe here.) earlier in the week, and we still had those leftovers in the refrigerator.

I decided to make a different casserole to take along. I found the original gratin recipe HERE on the Food Network website, by Ina Garten. I love her take on most recipes, but sometimes I  find them to be very rich, and they often include some rather expensive ingredients. This recipe for Zucchini Gratin included Gruyere cheese. I looked for it at my big box store, hoping for a bargain, but no such luck. I think they had every kind of cheese, except Gruyere. I then went to our least expensive grocery store, and they had it, cut into 7 oz. chunks, for $9.99. Yes, that is correct, less than 1/2 a lb. for $9.99. I hightailed it over to the domestic cheese refrigerated case and purchased a humble block of Swiss cheese for around $4 per pound. I also used less butter than Ina and I used 1% lowfat milk, instead of the full fat she favors. In addition, I was too lazy to make fresh bread crumbs, so I used plain ones from the pantry. AND GUESS WHAT? It was delicious.

So, I can honestly say, thanks, Ina, for the wonderful inspiration. The flavor was very delicate and had a slightly sweet taste, probably a combination of the onions and fresh ground nutmeg. Don't omit the nutmeg, and use freshly grated if you possibly can, it makes a huge difference! And if you want to spring for the Gruyere cheese, go for it! This dish looked great, tasted delicious, and wasn't that bad for us. It also cooked up quickly, after a fairly easy morning prep.

Will I make it again? Absolutely. And the 6 eaters at the party ate almost every bit of it, the truest test of all: Crowd approval. There was a little bit of a small serving leftover, but that didn't last long.....just sayin'.

Zucchini and onions in the pan,
milk poured over, thickening. 
 Zucchini Gratin

4 T. butter, divided use
2 lbs. zucchini, washed and cut into 1/8" rounds
3 large yellow onions, halved and sliced into half moons
3 T. flour
1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup low fat milk
1 cup grated Swiss Cheese
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Butter or spray with cooking spray a 13 X 9" casserole. 

In a large, heavy skillet, melt 3 T. butter and add the onion. Saute' the onion for 10 - 15 minutes over medium to low heat, until soft and just starting to caramelize. Add the zucchini and stir until combined with the onion. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and sprinkle the zucchini with the flour. Gently stir the flour into the vegetables until the flour is absorbed, with no white, dry flour showing. Add the milk and turn the heat up. Continue to stir gently, so you don't break up the zucchini. Bring the mixture to a boil, while it makes a sauce and thickens. As soon as it thickens, turn off the heat. 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Pour the zucchini/onion mixture to the prepared casserole, spreading it in an even layer. Mix the grated Swiss cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle evenly over the top of the vegetables. Dot the topping with the remaining 1 T. butter, cut into small pieces. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, until brown and bubbly. Serves 6 - 8. 

Zucchini Gratin, hot and browned from the oven.

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