I am finding that the romance of cookbooks isn't really in flipping through for inspiration, but when I surrender to a recipe's every word. The page is marked with a little post it and I keep referencing back to it's open pages to make sure I'm doing just what it directs. Hopeful it comes out as delicious as the photo leads me to believe and refreshed to have a dish so different than my everyday normals. I am in this strange but wonderful phase where I am not feeling particularly creative in the kitchen, so I am either cooking from cookbooks or resorting to my staples (scrambled eggs, bean and cheese tacos, roasted vegetables, ice cream and an occasional kale salad once I feel guilty enough about too many bean and cheese tacos and an unnecessary ice cream routine). I'm not calling it a rut, it is just a different season and I actually think it's healthy if the work you do is creative. I just want someone else to tell me what to do. I have freelance jobs where I need to pull myself together, but for the most part, I'm just trying new things... except when I'm eating the same thing for the millionth time.
The Food52 Genius Recipes book came out a couple months back and it is precisely the book you need if you want someone to tell you what to do. The recipes highlight a technique so there are little secrets and tricks that not only help you with the shared recipe, but make you a better cook in general. I am not a detailed or perfect cook myself, so when I find a book that is dedicated to finding the best - the genius recipes - I am all ears. It is everything I am not and I am loving it. In an effort to try to feed all three of us the same thing, I started with my bookmark on Julia Childs' Gratin of Zucchini, Rice and Onions with Cheese. It sort of reminds me of a risotto without the stirring. The only swap I made was brown rice for the white and I don't think it made any compromise of the dish, just needed a smidge more cooking time which is reflected in the recipe below. I know I've been talking a lot of books around here lately, but this would make for an excellent gift for you or the other cooks in your life.
Wishing you a warm weekend!
* House Business. I will be up at The Madewell store at The Grove in Los Angeles next Thursday 6/18 from 6-8pm for a denim happy hour with cookbooks. There is a 20% discount on any purchase over $125 and snacks and drinks so I would love to see you there. Please come be my friend!
Gratin of Zucchini, Rice and Onions with Cheese // Serves 6 as a side
Recipe barely changed from Food 52's Genius Recipes
When the recipe says "zucchini juices and milk" it isn't an exact amount of either. I just squeezed the zucchinis of their liquid into a measuring cup after they sat in the salt and then made up the difference in milk to get to the called for 2 cups which was about another cup. Mine took longer in the oven than the recipe led me to believe but that may have been because of the brown rice. The recipe suggests the oven at 425' but I went with 400' since it needed to be in there a good 35 minutes and I didn't want it to burn. The extra moisture in my finished shot is because my zucchini yield was short, yours should look drier.
- 2 to 2 1/2 lbs. zucchini or other summer squash
- 1/2 cup short grain brown rice (or white rice, as published, if you prefer)
- 1 cup minced onion
- 5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbsp. unbleached all purpose flour
- about 2 1/2 cups warm zucchini juices and milk
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (save a few Tbsp. for the top)
- salt and pepper to taste
Shred the zucchini, toss them with a heaping teaspoon of salt and drain in a colander. Reserving the juices. Meanwhile drop the rice into boiling salted water, bring rapidly back to a boil for 8 minutes; drain and set aside. Preheat the oven to 400'.
In a large frying pan, cook the onions slowly in 3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender and translucent. Raise the heat slightly and stir for several minutes until just browned. Stir in the grated and dried zucchini and garlic. Toss for 5 minutes until the zucchini is almost tender. Sprinkle in the flour, stir over moderate heat for a minute and remove from the heat.
Gradually stir in the 2 1/2 cups warm liquid (zucchini juices plus milk heated gently in a pan). Make sure the flour is well blended and smooth. Put the pan over moderately high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring. Remove from the heat again, stir in the blanched rice and 1/2 cup of the grated parmesan. Taste carefully for seasoning and add your salt and pepper.
Butter a 6-8 cup baking and serving dish that is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep. Turn the warm zucchini mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining parmesan cheese on top. Dribble the remaining olive oil over the cheese.
Bring the gratin to a simmer on stove top as long as your dish is flame proof. Bake in the upper third of the oven until the gratin is bubbling, top is browned and appears most of the liquid has absorbed. Mine took about 30-35 minutes. Serve warm.