Or, This Better Be the Best Damn Casserole Ever Because It Is Certainly the Hardest.*
1. At the farmer’s market, look for the split tomatoes, which are just as good, flavor-wise, as the pretty heirlooms but for around $1/pound. They’re just really ugly and no one wants to buy really ugly tomatoes. Except you! Because you know that it doesn’t matter how ugly the tomatoes are if they taste good! (See my Terry Richardson style photo of the ugly tomatoes. You’ll be happy to know that no tomatoes were sexually assaulted in the taking of those photos.)
2. According to Cook’s Illustrated (who site a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry), the seeds and jelly in a tomato contain the majority of the tomatoey flavor, so you shouldn’t take them out.
3. While it is possible to create a summer vegetable gratin with tomatoes and summer squashes (and bully for you, Cook’s Illustrated, for making it happen), it ultimately is fighting against the very watery nature of both those vegetables (fruits) and just not really worth the effort. Good tomatoes are just as good sliced raw and sprinkled with salt or roasted in the oven with breadcrumbs on top or in a grilled cheese. I like summer squash better in pasta or on tart dough with chevre. None of those take the better part of two hours to create.
4. I need to trust my gut when I first read recipes, because I don’t how I convinced myself that I would enjoy cooking a recipe that involved: salting and draining 2 pounds of summer squash; salting and draining 1 pound of tomatoes (separately from the squash); caramelizing onions; making a special garlic/thyme oil to toss with the zucchini;layering everything; cooking the whole thing part way; then making a special breadcrumb, oil, cheese, shallot (yes TWO kinds of onions) mixture and topping the partially cooked casserole with the mixture and then cooking some more; then topping with basil leaves. All for a dish that still required a main course of some sort. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that the recipe involved dirtying half the pots and dishes in my kitchen.
I am not going to post the recipe, because it’s not really worth the effort. But if you want to dig it up, it’s in the August 2010 Cook’s Illustrated Summer Entertaining magazine. Dave thought it was good, and I did too, but just not good enough.
* It was not.
p.s. A picture of the finished gratin (taken today because it was TOTALLY DARK by the time the damn thing was done last night):