Sum­mer Veg­etable Gratin

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD -

MAKES 8 TO 12 SERV­INGS

For the base layer: 2 medium onions, thinly sliced ¼ cup olive oil 2 red bell pep­pers, thinly sliced, or 2 ad­di­tional onions ½ tea­spoon red pep­per flakes 4 cloves gar­lic, smashed For the op­tional tomato-bread crumb top­ping: 1½ pounds plum or other ripe toma­toes ¼ cup olive oil 1 baguette 1 cup shred­ded Parme­san or Gruyère cheese For the gratin: ¼ cup olive oil, more for bak­ing 1½ pounds zuc­chini, sliced ¼-inch thick 1½ pounds yel­low squash, sliced ¼-inch thick ¼ cup freshly chopped basil or pars­ley, more for gar­nish Salt and black pep­per

To­tal time: 1½ hours 1. Make the base layer: In a large, heavy oven­proof skil­let or enam­eled cast-iron pan (10 to 12 inches across), com­bine onions and olive oil and heat to a siz­zle, stir­ring to sep­a­rate. Add bell pep­pers, red pep­per flakes and gar­lic. Cook, stir­ring, over low heat un­til pep­pers are very soft and onions are browned, about 20 min­utes. Re­move from heat and re­move gar­lic, leav­ing re­main­ing mix­ture in the pan.

2. Mean­while, make the top­ping (if us­ing): Core toma­toes and slice them ¼ inch thick. Lay on pa­per tow­els to drain for 10 min­utes. Heat 2 ta­ble­spoons oil in a large skil­let over low heat. Add toma­toes and cook very slowly, turn­ing once or twice, un­til liq­uid has bub­bled away and flesh is cooked through, about eight min­utes. (Do not over­cook, or toma­toes will fall apart.)

Turn off heat and let slices cool in skil­let; they will con­tinue to dry out. Tear baguette into pieces and pulse in a food pro­ces­sor to make coarse, fluffy, pea-size crumbs. Add re­main­ing 2 ta­ble­spoons oil and the cheese and pulse to com­bine.

3. As­sem­ble the gratin: Heat oven to 425 de­grees Fahren­heit. (If your oven has a con­vec­tion fea­ture, use it, re­duc­ing bak­ing tem­per­a­ture to 400.) In a large bowl, com­bine oil, zuc­chini and squash, and toss well un­til lightly and evenly coated. Add basil, sprin­kle gen­er­ously with salt and pep­per, and toss again.

4. On top of the base layer in pan, ar­range squash and zuc­chini slices around the in­ner rim of the pan, stand­ing on their edges in roughly al­ter­nat­ing colours. Pat down into the pan so slices over­lap and lie down, like shin­gles or fallen domi­noes. Re­peat to make an­other cir­cle in­side the first, and again if nec­es­sary, un­til pan is filled. Sprin­kle with salt and pep­per.

5. Brush oil over the top of the gratin and trans­fer to oven. Bake 30 min­utes. Raise oven tem­per­a­ture to 450 F (425 for con­vec­tion), or heat the broiler.

6. If not us­ing top­ping, brush sur­face again with oil. If us­ing top­ping, ar­range tomato slices in one layer on top of the par­baked gratin. Spread bread-cheese mix­ture over toma­toes and press down gen­tly.

7. Bake or broil un­til veg­eta­bles are browned around the edges or crust is crisp and golden. Let cool slightly and serve hot or at warm room tem­per­a­ture. Gar­nish each serv­ing with herbs.

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