Summer Squash Gratin

I had to make this lovely summer gratin as soon as I saw a photo of it. So pretty and colorful! 🙂 It is a wonderful celebration of the bounty of summer squash.

We ate it as a vegetarian main dish with a crusty sourdough baguette. It would also be a fabulous side dish. This recipe was adapted from Food and Wine, contributed by Laura Rege. I used sweet cipollini onions from my CSA box in addition to the leeks.

After adding an additional sautéed CSA cipollini onion, I also made a mini-gratin with my leftover filling. 🙂 Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish (plus an additional mini-gratin, above, optional)
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 small leeks, white and tender green parts thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 cipollini onions, halved and cut into slices (plus 1 additional onion if making a mini-gratin)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (plus 1 additional T if making a mini-gratin)
  • 3 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably 
on a mandoline
  • 3 medium yellow summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices, preferably on a mandoline
  • coarse salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely shredded Gruyère (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 plum tomato, very thinly sliced crosswise
  • flaky sea salt, for finishing
  • crusty bread such as a sourdough baguette, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat. Add the leeks, and onions, if using, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes.
  4. Spread in a 9-inch round baking dish.
  5. Using a mandolin, slice the squash lengthwise into 1/8-inch slices.
  6. Meanwhile, on 4 large baking sheets, spread the zucchini 
and yellow squash and brush with the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil; season with salt and pepper.
  7. Sprinkle with the cheese and let sit until slightly softened, about 5 minutes or up to 1 hour.
  8. Tightly roll 1 piece of zucchini and set it on the leeks in the center of the dish.
  9. Working 
outward from that center slice, continue rolling and coiling additional pieces of zucchini and yellow squash until you reach the edge of the baking dish.
  10. Season the tomato slices with salt and pepper, then tuck in intervals between the zucchini and squash.
  11. Scrape any cheese off of the baking sheets and sprinkle on top.
  12. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, 
until the zucchini and squash are tender and browned 
in spots. (I cooked mine for 33 minutes, and 27 minutes for the mini)
  13. Remove from oven. While hot, sprinkle with sea salt.
  14. Let cool slightly, then 
serve with crusty bread.

I’m sharing my summer gratin at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #180, co-hosted by Tracey @My Baja Kitchen and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. Enjoy!

Note: If making the additional mini-gratin, saute the additional onion, adding 1 T wine cooking as directed above. Place in the bottom of a mini-pie dish and layer remaining squash and cheese. Cook as directed.

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Fiesta Friday Badge Button I was featured

Corn & Lobster Tart

What a lovely summer meal! After having sourdough baguette slices slathered with brie as an appetizer, we ate this flavorful tart and a green salad dressed with buttermilk-herb dressing for dinner. It could also be served as a special appetizer- perfect with a glass of rosé or white wine. We had fresh strawberry pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Eating pie for dinner and dessert was incredibly indulgent and fabulous… I would recommend it. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Florence Fabricant. I used a Trader Joe’s pie crust as a shortcut. I also substituted 2 lobster tails for a whole lobster and used a Vidalia onion and parsley in the filling. Delicious.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • pastry for a 9-inch tart
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1½ cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
  • pinch cayenne
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 1 1/4-pound lobster boiled or steamed, shucked and diced (I used 2 lobster tails (1 pound total weight)
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Roll out pastry between layers of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch straight-sided tart pan or a pie pan.
  3. Prick bottom, line with parchment and foil and add pastry weights.
  4. Bake 10 minutes, until pastry starts to look dry. Remove foil and weights and bake 5 or so minutes more, until pastry is lightly colored. Remove from oven but leave oven on.
  5. While the crust is par-baking, cook the lobster meat. I cooked the lobster tails in boiling, salted water for 8 minutes. (1 minute per ounce- each tail was about 1/2 pound.) When cool enough to handle, cut off the shell and coarsely dice the meat.
  6. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and cook on low until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in corn, tarragon or parsley and cayenne.
  8. Stir in milk. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat.
  9. In a bowl, beat eggs and cream together and slowly stir into the pan.
  10. Add lobster. Stir in lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Ladle mixture into prepared tart shell. Bake 10 minutes.
  12. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes more, until top is firm to the touch and very lightly browned, and a knife inserted in the filling comes out clean.
  13. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

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Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 10 cloves garlic, skins left on
  • 2 ½ cups whole milk
  • 1 handful of fresh sage, leaves picked — around 15-20 leaves
  • 2 lemons
  1. Heat oven to 375, preferably on convection.
  2. Season the chicken aggressively with the salt and pepper.
  3. Place a pot that will fit the chicken snugly (I used a deep 4-quart pot) over medium-high heat on the stove, and add to it the butter and olive oil.
  4. When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the chicken to the pot and fry it, turning every few minutes, until it has browned all over.
  5. Turn the heat down to low, remove the chicken from the pot and place it onto a plate, then drain off all but a few tablespoons of the fat from the pot. (I left more fat than recommended but would reduce the amount next time.)
  6. Add the cinnamon stick and garlic to the pot, and allow them to sizzle in the oil for a minute or 2, then return the chicken to the pot (preferably breast-side down) along with the milk and sage leaves.
  7. Use a vegetable peeler to cut wide strips of skin off the two lemons, and add them to the pot as well.
  8. Slide the pot into the oven, and bake for approximately 1½ hours, basting the chicken occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender and the sauce has reduced into a thick, curdled sauce. (If the sauce is reducing too quickly, put a cover halfway onto the pot.)
  9. To serve, use a spoon to divide the chicken onto plates. Spoon sauce over each serving.

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Sam Sifton’s Middle-School Tacos

We are counting down the days until the end of my son’s elementary school career. 😦 His 6th grade Graduation- a.k.a. “Moving Up” ceremony- is next Tuesday. So… it’s the perfect time to share this recipe for a popular Middle-School lunch! I’m getting him ready for his next chapter. ❤

The recipe for these “Middle-School ‘Gringo’ Tacos” was featured in a New York Times article titled “The Case for Hard Shell Tacos,” contributed by Sam Sifton. They were a wonderful upgrade from a taco kit. 🙂 I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, decreased the chile powder and red pepper flakes, and doubled the garlic. We topped them with grated cheeses, sour cream, guacamole, shredded iceberg lettuce, and chopped grape tomatoes. I served them with refried beans on the side as well. Great.

Of course, my kids absolutely loved them! Then they informed me that their school lunch tacos are served in soft tortillas. Funny. Maybe that’s an elementary school thing? We’ll see! 😉

Time: 30 minutes

For the Meat Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola, peanut or grapeseed
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1-2 tablespoons chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or substitute hot or sweet paprika)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 cup chicken stock or beef broth, low-sodium if store-bought

For Serving:

  • 12-18 hard taco shells
  • refried beans, optional

Topping Suggestions:

  • grated cheese (I used both cheddar and Monterey Jack)
  • sliced jalapeños
  • chopped tomatoes
  • shredded lettuce or cabbage
  • sour cream
  • guacamole
  • lime wedges

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the onion, and cook until softened and starting to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, and cook for a minute or so to soften, and then the ground meat. Cook until it starts to brown, stirring and chopping with a spoon to break up the meat, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Pour off excess fat, leaving only a tablespoon or two in the pan.
  4. Add the chile powder, cumin, salt, pepper, cornstarch, paprika and red-pepper flakes, and stir to combine.
  5. Add the stock or broth, stir, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until the sauce has thickened slightly, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  6. As sauce cooks, place taco shells (on a taco rack, if possible) on a sheet pan, and toast in oven until they are crisp and smell nutty, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Serve a few tablespoons of meat in each taco, along with whatever toppings you like.
  8. Serve with refried beans on the side, if desired.

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Grilled Swordfish with Za’atar Salsa Verde

I love a fresh herb sauce. This Middle Eastern variation on a classic salsa verde brightened up the grilled fish. We ate it over brown Basmati rice with sautéed collard greens and green kale on the side.

This dish was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alon Shaya. I used homemade za’atar. I also used swordfish in lieu of red snapper, grilling instead of broiling, and modified the proportions in the salsa verde. Healthy and tasty. 🙂

Yield: Serves 2

  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 2 6-ounce swordfish steaks, patted dry
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoons za’atar
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  1. Toast pine nuts in a 400 degree oven (I used a toaster oven.) or a dry small skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often, until golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop, if desired.
  2. Heat a gas grill or broiler. Season fish with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with coriander.
  3. Drizzle 1 T oil onto one side of the fish, flip and repeat on the opposite side. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Grill fish until cooked through, about 3-4 min per side for a 1″ thick steak. (Alternatively, place fish on a small rimmed baking sheet and broil until cooked through, about 8–10 minutes.)
  5. Meanwhile, mix together cilantro, parsley, garlic, za’atar, red pepper flakes, and remaining 4 T olive oil in a mini food processor or small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir lemon juice and pine nuts into salsa verde and spoon over fish.

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Orecchiette with Greens, Mozzarella & Crispy Chickpeas

I love a recipe that gobbles up the greens from my CSA share. I have made this dish a couple of times using whatever combination of greens I had available. Recently, I used turnip greens, kale and spinach but I have also used chard and baby collard greens in the past. The classic combination of basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella was a nice complement to the sautéed greens as well.

This quick dish was adapted from a Food and Wine staff favorite recipe, contributed by Marcie Turney. I doubled the recipe, decreased the red pepper flakes, and increased amount of fresh mozzarella. SO delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 pound orecchiette
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and patted dry
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pound greens such as Swiss chard, kale, turnip greens, spinach, stemmed and leaves coarsely chopped (or more, as desired)
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 16 large basil leaves, torn or chiffonade
  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the orecchiette until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium, deep skillet, heat 1/4 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering. Add the chickpeas and cook over high heat until crisp, 4 minutes. Transfer them to a paper towel–lined plate, sprinkle with the cumin and coriander and season with salt and black pepper. Discard the oil and wipe out the skillet.
  3. Add the olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper to the skillet. Cook over moderately high heat until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened, 3 minutes.
  5. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until wilted, 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of reserved cooking water to the skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until incorporated.
  7. Add the mozzarella and basil and toss. Add more pasta water, if necessary.
  8. Spoon the pasta into bowls, sprinkle with the chickpeas and serve.

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Happy Mother’s Day & Cooking for a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge

Happy Mother’s Day! I wish all of the mom’s out there a beautiful and relaxing day. ❤ While Mr. BrookCook and my kids take care of me and the cooking today, I have time to share a special mother-daughter cooking project.

In order to earn a Junior Girl Scout Cook Badge, my daughter (with my help) had to cook a complete breakfast, a healthy dinner, and a delicious dessert. Understandably, she wanted to make meals that she wanted to eat! This was actually a great opportunity for her as she is harder to please when menu planning. It was a lesson in itself to see how much time and work is required to put together an entire meal. 🙂

We made Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins for breakfast with fruit salad on the side. She loved cutting all of the fruit herself. For the “healthy” dinner, she prepared a No-Boil Macaroni and Cheese (recipe below) with Simple Caesar Salad. Healthy enough, right? She loved it so much we have already made it again.

We made a Lemon Meringue Pie, using a store-bought pie crust, for dessert. Not only did she make the pie, she typed out the recipe to share with her Girl Scout Troop. A big project! She did a great job and I was very proud of her. I hope that she continues to enjoy cooking more and more in the future. ❤

No-Boil Macaroni & Cheese (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Yield: 8 Servings

For the Pasta:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 T coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more, to taste
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp white cheddar, divided

For the Topping:

  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 2 T chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 400°, preferably on convection.
  2. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  3. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Whisk in milk and 3 cups water.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, whisking often, until a very thin, glossy sauce forms, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
  7. Toss pasta and 1 1/2 cups cheese in a 13x9x2-inch or other shallow 3-quart baking dish. Place on a rimmed baking sheet.
  8. Pour sauce over (pasta should be submerged; do not stir) and cover with foil.
  9. Bake until pasta is almost tender, about 20 minutes.

For the Topping:

  1. Melt remaining 1/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, panko, and parsley and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove foil from dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese, then panko mixture.
  2. Bake until pasta is tender, edges are bubbling, and top is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.
  3. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

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