Sunday, September 13, 2009

Taste of Yellow: Summer Squash Gratin

I spent much of a wet and windy Saturday catching up on my huge backlog of food blogs that accumulated during my month long unplugged break. It was during this catch up session I began to notice a few posts for Barbara of winosandfoodies yearly Taste of Yellow event that supports the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Livestrong fight against cancer.

Livestrong Logo

I've participated in this event before and spoke then about the friends and family I have lost to cancer. This time around I'm going to talk about the friends and family who have survived cancer.

Every single one of them from my best friend who had breast cancer and decided to have preventative surgery in the form of a double mastectomy because her mother, her sister, her grandmother and both aunts had all been diagnosed with breast cancer to my mother in law, who last year less than one month after we both lost Wren, was diagnosed with lung cancer to my biological father, who last year upon returning from a six month trip to China he had been planning for the last ten years to meet his wife's family was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, have one thing in common besides cancer; the way their lives came to a screeching halt.

My best friend was in the midst of writing her thesis for her PhD in Art History. My mother in law was in the middle of grieving for her last living child. My father was reveling in the afterglow of meeting his in-laws who welcomed him into their family with open arms. Regardless of the important events all three of them were engaged in, they all put aside their lives and took up the fight against their cancer.

To honor my friends and family, who thankfully have beat their cancers or whose cancers are in remission, I made a yellow summer squash gratin with the last of the yellow straight neck squash from last week's farmer's market.

Last of the seasons Yellow Summer Squash

Gratins are layered dishes that often include cream, milk, eggs or butter. This gratin is simple and adapted from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food recipe for summer squash gratin. Her recipe was simple, summer squash, half and half, cream, a bit of butter, salt and pepper.

Like the recipe, I only used half and half and cream with some salt and pepper as the sauce but I added caramelized onions and a dash of nutmeg to the dish. The sauce curdled a bit in the oven but the taste was fantastic, not unlike the lives of people who are diagnosed with cancer. There is a bit of curdling at first but when they come through on the other side, life is even sweeter.

Summer Squash Gratin for Taste of Yellow

Yellow Summer Squash Gratin
adapted from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Foods

3 medium yellow summer squash, sliced very thin (either long neck or crooked neck yellow squash)
Kosher salt, for sprinkling on summer squash
3 Tbsp salted butter
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp nutmeg
1/2 cup of finely shredded swiss cheese (optional)
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup heavy cream

Slice squash very thin, spread on cookie sheet, and lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt. Set aside while caramelizing the onions.

In large saute pan, melt butter over medium low heat add onions and stir with wooden spoon to coat completely with melted butter. Let onions sweat and slowly caramelize. This will take about 15 - 20 minutes. When onions are just starting to turn golden brown at the edges, add garlic and nutmeg. Stir for about 1 minute until you just start to smell garlic. Remove from heat and set aside.

In greased 8 x 4 loaf pan, put one layer of squash on the bottom, sprinkle 1/4 of the onions on top of the squash, and lightly sprinkle with pepper and swiss cheese, if using. Repeat until all the squash is used, finishing with onions and cheese on top.

In measuring cup, whisk together half and half and cream and pour over squash and onion layers.

Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or until top is brown and bubbling and squash is tender.

Allow to stand for 10 minutes until gratin sets up before serving.