Summer vegetable gratin casserole will become an instant family favorite recipe. Vibrant summer vegetables braised in milk with a touch of butter and grated white cheddar cheese. Thank you United Dairy Industry of Michigan for sponsoring this post. All thoughts are my own.
One of the most fabulous things about living in northern Michigan is being in the heart of a region rife with farms of all shapes, sizes, and specialties. Usually we take advantage of this fact by purchasing a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share. The concept is solid: pay a subscription price either by the week or the season to a hardworking farmer willing to do all the work growing food to help fund their operation.
In exchange, you may pick up a big basket of the current harvest of locally grown goodness each week. Joining a CSA broadened our palates by introducing us to vegetables that we may not have tried otherwise. I loved the challenge. My family? Not quite so much. I mean, I might never have made favorites such as cheesy kale chips or lemon garlic linguine with kale if not for what I fondly refer to as The CSA Summer of Kale 2013. Bacon Slayer refers to that summer by another clever moniker which shouldn’t be repeated in polite company.
Of course, it wasn’t all kale. We had some cool and interesting squash varieties at our disposal as well. Flying saucer squash? Yep. Cooked it. Ate. Kids swore to never touch it again. As it turns out, my sons are a tad fussy when it comes to squash–they totally get it from their father. It’s pumpkin or nothing for my fellas. Although, if I don’t couch the pumpkin in cinnamon rolls, or cookies with Hershey’s Kisses, or muffins with cranberries, the Sons really aren’t interested.
So after a few summers of hit or miss produce, we decided to forgo the CSA. Instead opting for weekly trips to a local farmers market to select items that everyone will actually eat. I found that if I go with more familiar squash varietals my family will usually eat it without complaint. Usually. Of course, they still prefer zucchini in cake form, I am able to expand their horizons toward the savory side if I add enough dairy products. Because everything is better with a sprinkling of cheese on top!
Summer Vegetable Gratin is a vegetable-laden dish that my family loves. As with many gratin dishes, cheese is involved.
Food Dork Trivia Alert: Gratin, coming from the French word for “grated,” a classic gratin is vegetable topped with either grated bread crumbs and/or cheese that is browned in the oven. A recipe including term “gratin” refers to the technique of topping a vegetable with something browned on top. We Americans tend to refer to something as “au gratin” as “with cheese,” such as au gratin potatoes, when in actually the term au gratin pertains to anything served with something grated on top.
Summer Vegetable Gratin can be assembled with most any seasonal vegetable. I braise firm vegetables like zucchini, yellow summer squash, potato, onion, asparagus, and tomato in a light mixture of milk, seasonings, and a few dots of butter. Once the vegetables are tender and the milk has evaporated a bit, sharp white cheddar cheese is sprinkled over top and the dish is returned to the oven until the cheese melts and turns the most mouth-watering shade of golden brown.
Even my squash-averse family can’t resist the bubbly, cheesy presentation of summer vegetables in this gratin. Son #1 will eat it by the plateful for dinner. Then he requests leftover gratin to be served with a soft fried egg over top for breakfast the next day.