I am on vacation!! My middle/high school best friend decided to tie the knot with her beau on her grandparent’s lovely property in the New Hampshire woods. As I write this post, I am gazing out the window from a little cottage on a lake in the picturesque countryside. The calm waters lapping at the golden sand beg for a toe to be dipped while the green, gold, brown and red foliage flirting with the breeze proudly announce fall’s arrival to New England.
The scenery isn’t the only thing proclaiming the new season, the food says it too. Beef and Guinness stew; mussels in white wine with crusty bread; seared scallops with apple cider vinegar, spinach and prosciutto; homemade fudge; molasses spice cookies and pumpkin ice cream sandwiches. Then there’s been the almost constant flow of coffee, tea, red wine, pumpkin ale and Oktoberfest. Vacation indeed.
Before I skipped town last week, I threw this simple gratin together for a Sunday night dinner of lemon brined roast chicken.Late summer’s finest tomatoes and basil get married with the heartier vegetables of the months to come: potatoes and turnips. The turnips and tomatoes contribute delicate sweet notes while the potatoes offer their creamy texture until a crunchy blanket of sturdy breadcrumbs and Parmigiano. If you haven’t had turnips in awhile, (or ever), the gratin method is a great way to start off. As a testament to power of the gratin, I told my nine year old that the secret ingredient was turnips. Did he gag or pout? No, all he did was ask for a third helping.
Tomato, Potato and Turnip Gratin
Swap out the vegetables for any combo you like: sweet potatoes, Walla Walla onions, eggplants, zucchini, rutabegas, carrots, parsnips, and winter squashes would all work nicesly here. No basil? Use fresh parsley.
½ red onion
4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 sprig thyme (optional)
1 whole wheat pita, 2 slices whole wheat bread, or ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
¼ cup basil leaves, loosely packed
Slice the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 375°F. With a mandoline, food processor or sharp knife, cut the vegetables and 2 cloves garlic into 1/6th inch thick slices. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil, along with the salt, pepper and thyme. Pour into a glass baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife.
Make the topping. In a food processor, pulse together the bread/crumbs, cheese, basil, and remaining garlic and oil until just evenly combined (do not grind into a paste).
Gratinée the vegetables. Sprinkle the cooked vegetables with the topping mixture and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then serve hot.