Sunday, August 8, 2010

Zucchini & Potato Gratin

Welcome to my very first post!  I love blogging, but have recently been searching for some new content.  My most recent blog was written to document experiences in a new Montessori school that I was teaching in, as well as to help with parent communication.  I left that school at the end of the year to pursue work at another, but you can find that blog here if you're interested. 

When I first graduated college, moved out completely on my own, and began teaching, my eating habits were terrible.  I felt like I was always on the run, didn't have a lot of money, and didn't really know much about cooking.  There were many evenings that I just threw a bunch of prepackaged chicken nuggets in the microwave and called it a night.  That was seven years ago.  In the time since then, I have gradually (yet drastically) changed the way I look at food.  I'll always look to it for great taste and it's ability to fill me up, but now I also think carefully about nutrition and the greater social impact that food can have.  This blog will document my journey as a part-time vegetarian.  Cutting down on meat isn't exactly new for me, but I love exploring new recipes and figured there are plenty of other people out there that feel the same way.

This past Friday evening I wanted to start using up some of the veggies friends and family had given us from their gardens.  One was a rather large zucchini.  I did a little research online and came across this recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten.  After making some adjustments, I created my own version and was very pleased with the results.  Below is my modified recipe:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
1/2 extra large zucchini, sliced
1 medium/large red potato, slided
t. salt
couple cranks of pepper
dash nutmeg
2 T. flour
1 c. hot milk
1 c. bread crumbs
1 c. grated baby swiss

From here, the directions are pretty much the same as the Contessa's.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Saute the onions first until translucent, add the zucchini and potato - cook until tender.  Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, flour, & milk.   Cover and let simmer for about 2/3 minutes until it thickens up.  I used a smaller Pyrex dish - 8" square - and it worked just fine.  Throw all cooked ingredients in there, top with the breadcrumb/cheese mix.  I kept it in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until it was bubbling and golden on top.

This meal was warm, cheesy, and satisfying.  It would be absolutely perfect on a cold winter day, which is when I'll probably try it again!  If you happen to give this recipe a try, let us know the results in the comments.

Before signing off, I will leave you with a personal note on zucchini...
Zucchini is always the source of many jokes in my family; my father hates it and swears my grandmother used to sneak it into everything she made.  (Of course, this wouldn't surprise me...she grew up in the Great Depression and zucchini are easy to grow.)  So, in honor of my father's hatred of this delightful vegetable, I will leave you with a couple of corny zucchini jokes.   (found here!)

One well-traveled zucchini joke is about the woman who grew the world’s largest zucchini. She wanted to take it to a friend to show it off. The zucchini was so huge, it stuck out the car window and she couldn’t lock the car. Stopping at the grocer’s for a few things on the way, she returned to her car to find something awful happened while she was in the store… someone had left her the world’s second largest zucchini too!

The Best Zucchini Recipe:
1 bushel zucchini
1 raincoat
1 pair of sunglasses
A moderately fast car
Go to a busy parking lot. Drive around until you find an unlocked car. Put the zucchini in the back seat and drive away FAST before you are discovered!

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