Friday, August 27, 2010

Herbed squash and potato gratin

It's no surprise that I love dessert.  See exhibits A, B, and C.  (Also see the Oreo I had first thing this morning... hey, it's Friday!  I wanted to treat myself.)  But, for some reason, I seem to go a bit, as some would say, "overboard" during the summertime.  Like Wednesday that time I had three ice cream treats in an eight hour time frame.  (If you're wondering, they were a chocolate eclair crunch bar, a chocolate chip cookie sandwich, and a caramel brownie sundae.)  Some may argue that adults should know better, eat well-rounded meals, and practice control in the presence of sweets.  I say, yes, I am an adult and if I want to eat ice cream three times a day, then I will do just that because there is no one to keep me from doing so. 

Public assertions of maturity aside, I do realize that after a day consuming foods with little nutritional value and enough sugar to populate a beach, my body needs what I like to call a "reset button meal".

A reset button meal, to me, is a light meal packed full of nutrients that is not only satisfying but tasty, too.  So tasty that I can skip dessert without feeling like I'm being tortured.  Moreover, reset button meals usually are meat-free too, though occasionally a piece of salmon will make an appearance.  My body just needs and even craves some vegetables.  Simple fresh vegetables.  Nothing smothered in butter.  Or cream.  Or sandwiched between noodles.  Or cheese... well, a tiny bit of cheese is okay.  And herbs and seasonings.  Hey, I'm no saint.  I'm not going to sit on the floor, happily eating raw and bland vegetables.

Wouldn't you know that the timing of this reset button meal was just perfect.  This week the temperatures outside dipped into the 60s (gasp) and even the high 50s at night (jaw on floor), so not only was I in the mood for vegetables but comfort food, too.  Comfort food... slippers... cardigans... fall foliage festivals... shh!  Snap out of it, self!  This was a great Sunday night meal, since it takes some time in the oven, but would reheat very well the day or two after.  The potatoes and squash are so tender and flavorful, accented by the onion and fresh thyme that warms your nose and your tummy.  The Pecorino Romano cheese is just barely there, almost like that dusting of cocoa powder on top of tiramisu, that finishes the whole dish.

A few notes: I halved the recipe since I wasn't making this for a crowd, but the original recipe is double what you see described below... or just click on the link for the full quantity.  Also, I used Pecorino Romano cheese in place of the Parmesan because I had some left from this creamy pasta.  We ate this as a main dish with a small spinach salad on the side, but it would make an equally great side dish for a grilled steak or chicken entree.

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte
(adapted from Bon Appetit)
-serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a side

1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
scant 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
6 ounces (one large) yellow squash, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
3 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 375F.  Butter an 8-inch round cake pan and set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together cheese, flour, thyme, salt, pepper, and onions.

Layer roughly 1/3 of the potatoes, arranging them in the cake pan in concentric circles with pieces just barely overlapping (see above pictures).  Arrange 1/3 of the squash on top of the potato layer in same manner.  Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil over squash.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese flour mixture over the squash, too.  Repeat potato, squash, olive oil, and cheese layering two more times.

Cover pan with foil and gently press down on potato squash layers.  Bake in oven for 40 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until top of torte begins to brown.  Cut into wedges and serve.  (I paired this with, what else, a spinach salad.... mmm!)

Today is National Pots de Creme and Banana Lovers Day!

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