I want to change your mind about a gratin. Typically smothered in cheese and swimming in heavy cream sauce, it's hard to tell what is beneath those buttery concoctions. Dishes like this have their time and place, but not in the summer. In the summer, I adhere to a "less is more" philosophy, especially when highlighting a summer vegetable like squash. I've kept it lighter, but still plenty flavorful with Mediterranean elements like feta cheese and oregano. Homemade breadcrumbs top this gratin before baking. I like to make my own breadcrumbs with leftover bread. You can use anything you have on hand: sourdough, white, or wheat. Just remove the crusts and pulse the slices in your food processor. I store them in plastic bags in my freezer. They work well in many recipes and I actually prefer the consistency of these breadcrumbs to store bought.
This recipe stemmed from a need to decrease my mountain of squash. If you have inherited some squash too, whether from a neighbor, a trip to the market, or your garden, put it to good use here. I also had the chance to incorporate my first of the season onion in this one. It's very straightforward, nothing over the top, but qualifies as a light and simple vegetable dish. Once out of the oven, I've tossed fresh diced tomatoes and basil on top. This makes a great summertime lunch that won't weight you down. You could serve it alongside rice or even some nice slices of crusty artisan bread.
~Simple Squash Gratin Recipe~
4 yellow squash sliced 1/2" thick
1 large onion sliced in half moons
1 clove garlic
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/2 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups breadcrumbs
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped grape tomatoes
handful of basil, chiffonade or chop
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add garlic clove and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add onion and oregano, cooking for about 4 minutes. Add squash to the pan, cover with a lid and allow to cook down for 10-12 minutes. Stir this occasionally to prevent from sticking and ensuring squash cooks evenly.
With 1 tbsp of butter, grease a 13x9, (3 quart) pan. Arrange squash and onion mixture in a layer. Pour buttermilk over top and sprinkle evenly with feta cheese.
In a small pan, heat remaining tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and butter. Toss, coat, and heat breadcrumbs over low heat. Pour breadcrumbs over squash and feta mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 20 minutes. I also like to leave this under the broiler for just a minute at the very end to give the top a light brown color. Serves 6.