I blame my weird need for a challenge. I find zucchini and summer squash a little… slippery and limp in most dishes. It’s usually under-seasoned. But rather than wear my failure to see what others do in a food as a badge of honor, it bothers me. I want to be proven wrong. Show me the light, crooknecks and cocozzelles!
And here, to my glee, I was again shown the error of my presumptions. Summer squash is given the Suzanne Goin treatment, which is to say raised to one of its highest callings. It’s salted to help remove its moisture, then mixed with shallots, gruyere cheese, brown buttered breadcrumbs and, finally, a salsa verde (imagine a mixed-herb pesto without cheese which you should definitely make extra of because it’s good on everything) before being baked together into something that’s crunchy, complex and downright a little fancy. Tuesdays should be celebrated too, after all.
A good thing to know: We tend to refer to summer squash as summer squash when it’s yellow, but as zucchini when it is green. They’re actually both summer squash and can be used interchangeably in recipes because they all taste and cook similarly. When making exchanges, use weight, of course, not number of squash as zucchini the size of bats are a real, actual thing.
One year ago: Avocado-Shrimp Salsa
Two years ago: Zucchini Rice Gratin
Three years ago: Sugar Plum Crepes with Ricotta and Honey
Four years ago: Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons
Five years ago: Arugula Potato and Green Bean Salad and Peach and Creme Fraiche Pie
Six years ago: Nectarine Mascarpone and Gingersnap Tart
Seven years ago: Red Pepper Soup
Summer Sqaush Gratin with Gruyere and Salsa Verde
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, one of my favorite cookbooks
This recipe is riffed from one in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, though I confess that this is also the first recipe that I didn’t love exactly as written. I felt there was too much oil in the recipe (yours will have less than photographed above); the zucchini were swimming a bit. When I remade it, I streamlined the recipe a bit too from its restaurant origins. There’s something fancy about this, but in a good way, whether or not you serve it with an egg on top or the veal chops she recommends (we use lamb chops); it’s definitely more work than your average toss-and-bake weeknight dish, but there’s also miles more flavor than in my usual vegetable roast.
A few ingredient notes: As noted above, you can use zucchini or summer squash interchangeably here. You can grind 1 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs from 2 small dinner rolls or 3 slices of sandwich bread. If you’re not into anchovies, you can skip it (which will also make this a vegetarian dish), but you might want to bump up the capers a little so you don’t miss out on the salty/brininess.
Serves 4 to 6
2 pounds summer squash
1 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (from 4 to 5 medium)
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
1/4 cup salsa verde (below)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon marjoram or oregano leaves (or half, if dried)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 small cloves garlic
1 salt-packed anchovy, rinsed and bones removed
1 tablespoon capers, drained (and rinsed, too, if salt-packed)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 lemon, or more to taste
Heat your oven to 400°F. Cut the squash into thin (1/8-inch thick) coins. Toss with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Drain zucchini in a colander, and if you have time, spread them on a towel for a few minutes to further wick away moisture before placing it in a large mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, place breadcrumbs in a small bowl. In a small skillet or saucepan, melt butter and keep cooking it over medium heat until it browns and smells nutty. Carefully pour (in a small drizzle at first) over breadcrumbs and be sure to scrape out any brown bits from the pot. Toss crumbs to evenly coat.
Make the salsa verde by blending the herbs in a food processor or blender with garlic, anchovy and capers until it forms a paste, scraping down as needed. With the machine running, stream in the olive oil in a drizzle. Season with salt and black pepper. Add lemon juice to taste.
Add shallots, gruyere, half the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup salsa verde (about half; you can use the rest to dress eggs or any roasted meat) and some freshly ground black pepper to the bowl with the summer squash and toss. Transfer to a 9×9-inch (or equivalent; I used a 9-inch round cast-iron skillet) baking dish. Scatter remaining breadcrumbs over the top and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender and the crumbs are crisp.