Farmers Market Gratin

Farmers Market Gratin

Biting into a pattypan squash, I wonder if Michigan’s short growing season compresses and concentrates local vegetable and fruit flavors, providing us with the most flavorful produce imaginable. This speculation is unlikely, of course, but this has to be the tastiest squash I’ve ever eaten.

And hallelujah! We’re finally in the middle of Michigan’s growing season, certainly, my favorite time of the year. Whether you grow your own, purchase vegetables and fruit from roadside stands, farmers markets, online from, or local groceries, the simple joy of purchasing and eating Michigan-grown produce is, for me, one of summer’s finest pleasures.

Savoring local vegetables, especially baby vegetables, which are more flavorful as they have less water content, can be as simple as rinsing under cold water and eating from the colander – maybe with a pinch of kosher salt. But summer wouldn’t be summer without preparing a good vegetable gratin.

The word “gratin” actually refers to a recipe, usually made in a shallow baking dish, which is covered in a golden brown crust. If you are in possession of a gratin dish (Tian), you’re good to go. However any shallow, 2-quart oven-safe dish makes a lovely gratin. If you’re the type of cook who doesn’t like following recipes to the letter, gratins may be your new best friend.

Gratins can be made with abandonment- customized to use your favorite summer vegetables. I enjoy tomatoes (any variety), zucchini, eggplant, onions, leeks, fresh herbs and potatoes — all are wonderful mixed and matched in gratins.

An article in Fine Cooking Magazine suggests layering vegetables for concentrating individual flavors, with the bottom layer consisting of caramelized onions or leeks, and the top layer an arrangement of vegetables, sliced the same width for uniform cooking. Because of their low moisture content, potatoes should be parboiled and eggplant should be partially roasted; most other vegetables may be used raw. Compact vegetables and overlap them slightly as you cover the caramelized onions or leeks.

Italian, French and Spanish hard and semi-hard grating cheeses are excellent combined with bread crumbs and used as a topping. Medium-soft cheeses, such as mozzarellas, goat cheeses and fontinas, would also be a wonderful toppings.

This recipe was adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine,Zucchini Summer Squash Gratin


Recipe: Farmers Market Gratin


  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 leeks, dark green ends and roots trimmed, well-washed and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, assorted colored if possible, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 1/4 pounds patty pan squash, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated gruyere cheese
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil, chopped


  1. In a medium-sized sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and sauté , stirring frequently, until they are caramelized and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Toss leeks with thyme then spread the leeks evenly in the bottom of an oiled, 2- quart shallow oven-safe dish or grain pan, preferably oval. Let cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly sprinkle tomato slices with kosher salt and place in a large colander or shallow plate to drain for 10 minutes; discard the collected juices.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, toss the squash slices with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and lightly season with kosher salt.
  4. Starting at one end of the baking dish, lay a row of slightly overlapping tomato slices across the width of the dish and sprinkle with a bit of cheese. Next, lay a row of squash, overlapping the tomatoes by two-thirds, and sprinkle with cheese. Repeat with a row of squash, and then repeat rows, sprinkling each with cheese, until the gratin is full.
  5. Season lightly with freshly ground pepper and sprinkle basil over gratin. Combine remaining cheese with panko and evenly spread over gratin. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over gratin.
  6. Bake 50-70 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the vegetables have pulled away from the sides of the pan. (Oven temperatures vary: If your gratin top is well-browned after 40 minutes, cover in foil and let cook longer until vegetables have reduced and released most of their water.) Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Active Time (while caramelizing leeks): 30 minutes

Bake Time: 50-70 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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