I have a thing about vegetables. I love to eat them, sure, but I also love to shop for them and grow them and just gaze lovingly at them, dreaming of how delicious they'll be. This can be a bit of a liability for me when summer farmers' markets appear. Our Stone Soup Farm CSA share is just the right size for us, I think - we get a half share since we're only two people, but also because of my love affair with veggies means that sometimes I cannot resist the siren song of an enormous bunch of ruby stemmed swiss chard. I mean, just LOOK at it! I took this picture after it had sat in the fridge for a few days, and it's still so perky!
But it truly was enormous. Like, twice the size of a bunch I'd get from Stone Soup or the grocery store. We eat a lot of greens (Adam is having his own affair with kale, but I let it slide since he looks the other way on my relationship with tomatoes) and we like them a lot of ways: in soup, under potatoes, with pasta and shellfish, as salty crunchy snacks. I wanted to do something different with this chard, and we had a lot of other vegetables in the house. A brief search on epicurious led me to this gratin from an old fall issue of Gourmet.
I will probably return to this recipe in October and prepare it as written with lots of chard and spinach and nutmeg, and I'm certain it will be hearty and warming and wonderful. I had a fridge full of produce, though, so I tweaked and substituted and made-do and started calling it a big green gratin while it bubbled away in the oven. Summer Vegetable Gratin is more accurate, though, so let's go with that.
Given how many things I threw in there, smart money says this would work for nearly any combination of greens and veg that needs using. Summer squash or green beans would be great, maybe eggplant, definitely sliced tomatoes. If you can find a huge bunch or two of chard, the earthiness of it plays really well with the gruyere, and I love that the stems are edible, but spinach could stand in if that's easier for you to find. I'd save kale for another recipe, though, it takes a lot longer to cook.
Summer Vegetable Gratin
serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side
This made a really lovely dinner for the two of us, but there are a couple of changes I would make: when you put the chard in the colander to drain, press on it a bit to get as much liquid out as possible. Also, if you have cream or half and half, I'd use that instead of milk as it's thicker and cooks a little better in dishes like this. I had whole milk, so that's what I used.
1 huge bunch or two normal sized bunches of swiss chard, stems separated and sliced into 1/4 inch pices, leaves cut in 1-2 inch wide strips.
1 medium onion, diced (I used red, it was very pretty)
1 large zucchini, quartered the long way and cut in 1/2 inch chunks
1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and sliced
1 cup of shelled peas (or however many you get from about 1/2 a pound of shelling peas)
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk or cream
3-4 ounces Gruyere cheese or any swiss type cheese, grated
1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and chard stems, season with salt and pepper, and sautee until onions are translucent. Add chard leaves in batches, stirring until it wilts and cooks down, then adding another handful, until all the chard is cooked. Remove from pan and allow to drain in a colander in the sink. (You might want to press on it to remove as much liquid as you can, I forgot to do this, though, and it was still good.)
Return the pan to the heat (you can wipe it out if you like but it's not necessary. Add another tablespoon of butter, then add the zucchini, peas, and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and saute until the zucchini is just cooked. Turn off the heat.
In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter, then add the flour, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook the roux just until golden, 1-2 minutes. Add the whole milk and bring to a gentle simmer.
Return the chard mixture to the pan with the zucchini, then add the milk and toss to coat all the vegetables in the sauce. Spread in a 9x13" pan, then top with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into bits and dot the surface of the gratin with the butter bits.
Bake in the 400 degree oven for 20 minutes,