Sunday, June 1, 2014

Young Zucchini Gratin

Last Friday, I visited my local farmers market for the first time this year. Field tomatoes are not there yet because the spring was very cold but many greens are already available--different kinds of beets, a variety of kale, radish and young zucchinis. I left the market with bags full of spring greens and a couple of pounds of different zucchinis to make my favorite dishes and to experiment with the new ones.

Late spring zucchinis are still rather small and probably the tastiest. The menu of dishes that can be made with them is endless. Many simplest ones, like zucchinis just sauteed in olive oil and herbs, are among the best.

Yesterday, I tried a zucchini gratin recipe. Gratin dishes usually make the vegetables well cooked. This recipe however cooks zucchinis only to the point where they are still tender. Also, gratin dishes, contrary to popular believes, are delicate and not very rich in calories. Just look at all the slim Italians or French who make many dishes based on this Béchamel sauce.

This particular combination of young zucchinis and Béchamel sauce with a moderate addition of goat cheese seems perfect and can be served for lunch or dinner.

Young Zucchini Gratin
(serves four)

2 lb of small, baby green and yellow zucchinis, sliced in 1/2-inch slices,
2 small shallots, chopped,
a small bunch of fresh preferably lemon thyme--leaves only,
1/2 cup of crumbled goat cheese,
4 tbsp butter,
2 tbsp all purpose flour,
1 and 1/2 cup reduced fat milk,
4 tbsp breadcrumbs,
2 tbsp olive oil,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Heat the olive oil and fry shallots in it for about 3 minutes. Add sliced zucchinis and fry them for about 3 minutes, tossing them frequently.

3. Transfer zucchinis to a medium oven-proof dish. Sprinkle them with thyme leaves, and crumbled goat cheese.

4. To make a Béchamel sauce, melt 2 tbsp of butter in a medium pot. Add the flour and whisk until a smooth paste forms. Take off the heat and add milk. Using a whisker incorporate milk until the sauce is smooth and no clumps remain. Return the sauce to the heat and bring to boil stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Spread the hot Béchamel on top of the zucchinis. Sprinkle the dish with the remaining butter and breadcrumbs.
6. Bake the zucchinis for about 25-30 minutes, until the sauce bubbles and breadcrumbs become gold.

Serve hot alone or with a baguette.

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