Squashes and Sniffles

I’ve been sick. I never get sick and I’ve been sick. I have a cold. I guess I’m getting over it now. But what misery; a Summer cold.

As a result of this nasty cold, I spent my holiday weekend at home with season 2 of True Blood, a box of tissues, and my dog. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was so sick of being sick that I didn’t even care that my nose resembled Karl Malden’s from so much blowing and I ventured out to the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. I’m glad I did. It seems to be better for me to pretend I’m not sick and to continue to do my normal things – with the exception of late nights and too much wine. So I stocked up on beautiful produce gems and marched home to play in the kitchen.

I actually found the most incredible looking potatoes I have ever seen and used them in my World-Famous Breakfast Potatoes a mere hour later. Check these out...

After I made brunch (sans mimosas (gasp!)), I decided to test a couple of the recipes for the next Dinner at Eight: the chilled avocado-cucumber soup with ancho cream and the summer squash gratin with salsa verde. Would have been more fun with mimosas, but such is life.

I was really excited about the gratin recipe, one I’ve adapted from Suzanne Goin. While I am not a huge squash or zuchinni fan, in general, summer squash is the shining exception. And squash blossoms. I adore squash blossoms. They are so delicate, elegant and beautiful both in appearance and taste. I love that summer squash has the tender and edible rind (which is a result of it being harvested early). You could tear that thin veneer with a mere grazing of a fingernail.

In the past I have not waxed terribly poetic over summer squash. I have (rather boringly) sliced it lengthwise and grilled it alongside its plate partner for the evening--a meat item, I imagine. But this dish could very easily stand alone. It has layers of bold flavors within the salsa verde, shallots and garlic. It somehow manages to be both subtle and summery, yet warm and hearty.

Originally I had planned to serve it alongside a Bistecca Fiorentina but thought the flavors would compete too much with one another. Rather, I will be serving it with an herb-roasted pork loin. I feel confident that these two items will dance together brilliantly with their simplicity, comfort and sophisticated earthiness.

Summer Squash Gratin with Salsa Verde
(From Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques)

Serves 6

2 pounds summer squash
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sliced shallots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme 
3/4 cup salsa verde (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the squash into 1/8-inch thick slices (on the diagonal). Toss the slices in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and let sit 10 minutes.

Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the butter and cook a few minutes, until it browns and smells nutty. Pour the brown butter over the breadcrumbs, scraping all the bits into the bowl. Wait for a moment for the butter to cool, and toss well.

Drain the squash and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the shallots, minced garlic, thyme, salsa verde, and some pepper. Toss to combine, and add the cheese and half the buttery breadcrumbs. Toss again.

Place the squash in a gratin or casserole dish. Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs over the top, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender and the top is crisp.

Salsa Verde

1 teaspoon marjoram leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint
1 cup coarsley chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 anchovy
1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/2 lemon, for juicing
Freshly ground black pepper

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the herbs to a paste. Work in some of the olive oil, and transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Pound the garlic and anchovy, and add them to the herbs.

Gently pound the capers until they're partially crushed, and add them to the herbs. Stir in the remaining oil, a pinch of black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.


  1. Hi Elliott, a lot of people have a hard time getting around the "meat entree required" rule at dinner. I slip down that muddy slope myself many a tired evening. I just need to chant "gratin gratin gratin" as my mantra. Your photos are great.

  2. Thanks! I like this "gratin, gratin, gratin" chant...