25 September 2010

Summer Vegetable Casserole

It may not look pretty, but this is by far my favorite recipe of the summer. I'm only sad to have waited till the very end of the season to have discovered it. The recipe brings together all the flavors of summer (and cheese) and has the added benefit of using up a good 75% of the mounds of vegetables crammed into my refrigerator crisper drawer. 
I found the recipe in the LA Times, which has become a regular staple in seeking out recipe-inspiration. The idea of the casserole brings back waves of nostalgia from childhood, as one of my mother's staples for feeding her family of six. This recipe would have suited us, or any large crowd well enough -- my version below was halved, and even at that provided leftovers for several days afterward. Happily this summer casserole re-heats perfectly, goes nicely as a main course (with a side salad and crusty bread) or as a side item itself alongside chicken, beef, fish... I'll be making the full version of this recipe again, perhaps with the addition of some roasted spicy peppers, and freezing for a taste of summer in January. 
Summer Vegetable Casserole 
Adapted from the LA Times  

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large red onion, cut in half then sliced into 1/4 -inch half-moon slices
Salt and ground black pepper 
A handful of large basil leaves, torn into pieces (1/2 cup, loosely packed)
2 large tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped into 1 1/2 -inch pieces
2 small ears corn, husked, kernels cut off (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 pounds summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash) chopped into 
1 1/2 -inch pieces
1 1/2 cups coarse, fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs (such as thyme, rosemary and flat-leaf parsley)
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère or Fontina cheese (or cheese of your choice, even goats cheese would be nice)
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek-style yogurt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of the oil and set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vinegar, garlic, onions, one-half teaspoon salt and one-eighth teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 10 minutes.

Add the basil, tomatoes and corn and cook until the tomatoes, 6 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomato-corn mixture to prepared baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Return the skillet to the stove and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, the squash, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just golden-brown in parts, 12 to 14 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, butter, herbs, and another dose of salt and pepper, until just combined.

Transfer the squash to the dish with the tomato-corn mix. Add the Gruyère, sour cream (in dollops), and the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and half of the breadcrumbs and toss together gently to combine. Top with the remaining breadcrumbs; bake until golden brown and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.

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