Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A visit to a country farm stand and a recipe for a colorful French gratin


This is a typical country farm stand that can be found in the mountains of western North Carolina and north Georgia.


They sell all sorts of things in the fall including bright orange pumpkins, colorful fall mums in a variety of different colors, Indian corn to hang on your door, lots of different kinds of winter squashes and apples, roasted peanuts, and hand crafted bird houses.


Look at all of these pretty turban squashes. Their golden yellow flesh tastes as if it’s been flavored with hazelnuts.

Turban squash makes a lovely soup bowl if you slice its top off, hollow it out, and fill it with your favorite fall soup. I’m thinking for Thanksgiving that it would be perfect filled with my creamy rich Clam Zucchini Chowder.   



Most country farm stands sell roasted peanuts. Here they roast their own and the smell fills the air as you drive up.



How about a hand crafted birdhouse?


While we were there, I picked up some zucchini and tomatoes to make a French gratin. This is one of our favorite side dishes of all times. It seems to pair with almost any kind of meat or chicken dish, it’s gorgeous to look at, and a snap to make. It is equally good served hot as well as room temperature, making it ideal for a buffet.

I normally use a heavy French gratin dish, such as the Le Creuset oval au gratin baker, for this dish. Today I decided to give it a little star power and make it in a tart pan with a removable bottom. If you decide to make it in a tart pan, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, after you fill the tart pan with the squash and tomatoes, put it on a sheet pan to bake it, because it has a tendency to leak. Secondly, it helps to take the vegetables up in rows with a long, slender blade spatula for serving. If you wish to take up the entire tart and place it on a plate, use two pancake turners to lift the gratin and remove the bottom of the tart pan very carefully.

The cheese is optional, but highly recommended. The original recipe called for freshly grated imported Parmesan, which is what I used here. We’ve also used Gruyere cheese and it makes a fantastic, rich topping. Don’t be tempted to use dried thyme. The fresh thyme just makes it and its fresh flavor really sings.


French Zucchini & Tomato Gratin
Gratin de Courgettes et Tomates
Adapted from Bistro Cooking by Patricia Wells

1 large garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium), ends trimmed, thinly sliced
8 small red Roma tomatoes (about 2 pounds), cored & thinly sliced
Kosher or sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated imported Gruyere or Parmesan cheese (optional but delicious)

Note: Try to find zucchini & tomatoes that are about the same size to be able to alternate in the dish.

Preheat the oven to 450. Rub the bottom of a large oval porcelain gratin dish or tart pan with garlic. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer over the bottom of the pan, alternating the slices of zucchini and tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then the fresh thyme and olive oil.


Bake, uncovered, until meltingly soft, about 20 minutes. (If using a tart pan with a removable bottom, place the tart pan on a sheet pan before baking to catch spills.) After 20 minutes, top with cheese if using and place under the broiler to melt. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

65 comments:

  1. I love to visit our local farm stands Sam. Such treasures to be found this time of the year to make aromatic dishes like this one.

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  2. Oh, what lovely stands! Those pumpkins are awesome.

    Your gratin looks scrumptious!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. Your photos are so beautiful!!! Look at all those fresh veggies!!! Your recipe looks amazing too, I must try, totally up my alley!

    Jenifer

    Jaime and Jen Dish

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  4. Wow, that's one great farm stand! I love all the wild shapes and sizes of squash this time of year. Our stands are beginning to close up for the season and I am sorry to see them go.

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  5. I can smell those peanuts from here!

    Beautiful photos of the stand, it's one of my favorite things to do!

    This gratin looks perfect, thanks for the inspiration!

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  6. What a great time of year--all those beautiful squashes and pumpkins, bright blue sky, the aroma of roasting peanuts. Yet you can still get fresh tomatoes and zucchini! Your gratin looks beautiful and delicious.

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  7. What a wonderful stand. I love visiting produce stands and markets. The colors, shapes and possibilities are captivating.

    By the way, I am still longing for a perfect hoagie.

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  8. What a vibrant colorful post! From the charming market to the tart~

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  9. Looks like autumn is here already! Just look at those pumpkins and squashs! And thanks for sharing such wonderful photos. Your gratin looks simply delish! Hope you're enjoying your day.
    Cheers, Kristy

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  10. Sam - Your pictures are beautiful! The gratin looks wonderful - will definitely make after my trip to the Farmers Market Saturday.
    Many thanks for the information about the Turban Pumpkins - I now know what the funky little one I picked up on Saturday is named & that I have in on display upside down!!! Ha! Have a wonderful day, Lara

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  11. I just got SOOOO homesick. There are no farmstands out here in Tucson Arizona. There is a weekly farmers market, but it doesn't compare. MISS the east coast.
    Lovely blog, I am planning to make your tart soon!

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  12. I wish I had a farm stand near me like that! Your Gratin is wonderful-yummy!!

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  13. Your pictures are gorgeous! I've never seen turban squash before so that was cool to see. Delicious gratin!

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  14. That's a great looking fall farm stand. I think you are the master of arranging in layers as this is not the first dish of yours where ingredients are painstakingly arranged to be super good looking.

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  15. A delicious way to use the last of our farm stand tomatoes and zucchini!! Great photos! I can smell those peanuts and hope to find some when I travel to Virginia later this month.

    Happy fall!!

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  16. Wow - your gratin looks amazing...I love those pumpkins too!!

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  17. What a lovely gratin.Thank you for sharing. I have several of Patricia Wells' books but not Bistro. I thoroughly enjoyed your sharing your photos of you farm stand too.

    Carolyn/A Southerners Notebook

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  18. Sam,
    This country road stand sure is neat. I love the pumpkins, gords, and all the photos. Your gratin looks really good. I would love to have some now.

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  19. Everything was such fun to see. Thanks for sharing the recipe. It should be a good way to finish up the last of the summer produce.

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  20. I love gratins too. A great way to use the last of the tomatoes and zucchini. Pass me some peanuts, won't you? Any recs for a tart pan with a removable bottom?

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  21. That looks like a wonderful place to visit in the fall. Your dish looks delicious too! See you Saturday!
    Hugs,
    Penny

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  22. Impressive harvest that farm stand had and an excellent dish, you put together here. The colors of the tomato and zucchini are fabulous.

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  23. There's no mistaking your love for farmers markets, and these photos are terrific! Not to mention that lovely gratin. The first veggie gratin I ever made was with my grandmother the summer between my sixth and seventh grades. We watched a Julia Child episode about making a zucchini gratin, then went out in her garden and picked fresh zukes and put the dish together based on the notes I'd made while watching the episode. A far cry from the availability of so many recipes on the internet now, but one of my fondest food memories - grandma and fresh zucchini.

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  24. Bonjour Sam ~ I love these vibrant pics ~ Grand potiron, petit potiron~ I have been known to buy pumpkins just because they look so gorgeous!!
    ~Dianne~

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  25. I , too, love going to fresh produce/farm stands. Enjoyed the photos muchly. The soup bowl sounds like a fabulous idea for Thanksgiving! So festive.

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  26. What a beautiful little farm stand. I'd love to visit. I've never been around roasting peanuts. I can't imagine how wonderful that must smell.

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  27. Thanks so much for those marvelous fall photos of farm stands and pumpkins ands squash! I miss that so much. Not quite the same down here!
    Your gratin is perfect in its simplicity. The freshest ingredients make all the difference. I could eat this dish every day.

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  28. Dear Sam, This is such a lovely post & those are truly georgous pictures from that farmer's stand!!

    Waw,..what stunning fall's produce!

    Your end of summer's gratin looks just amazing,...waw!!
    Great food!

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  29. That summer farm stand knows what it's doing - it's just so inviting. How can you not stop? The look and feel of autumn - however brief always stops me in my tracks in appreciation. The gratin is perfect! I must try it in the tart pan. Just a tad prettier.

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  30. That farm stand is great with all the pumpkins! And the gratin is stunning - I love the presentation in a tart pan and the beautiful red and green colors!

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  31. Fantastic Market, and brilliant recipe! I love the idea of making this recipe without the traditional potatoes. That market is the quintessential fall market.Sometimes I am so upset there are only 2 of us at home now. I can never buy or make as much as I want when seeing a market like that - as there are just not enough of us to eat it all!
    :)
    Valerie

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  32. wow those turban squash are cool and what a beautiful gratin love your French dishes

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  33. Oh oh oh, did you get inspire a dish melded with my mother-in-laws recipe I am making...it will stack up nicely! Love this, and you have me drooling...

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  34. I love buying fresh produce! It really does make a difference in a wonderful recipe like this one! have a great week! See you soon! ♥

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  35. It's been too long since I commented here. But it's the French stuff that pulls me in like a magnet! GREG

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  36. Your local farm stand is very pretty, Sam. I like all the squash varieties they have for sale and I would love to buy their fresh roasted peanuts.

    The zucchini tomato gratin looks delicious! It is a nice way to prepare a garden harvest.

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  37. Your fall photos are beautiful.
    The tomato and zuke gratin looks so delicious. I agree that fresh thyme would make a big difference and well worth it. I always have some growing outside, just in case : )
    Hugs,
    TErri

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  38. What a beautiful dish! I love dishes that let the ingredients shine, and this does just that. The tomatoes and zucchini are the stars! Sounds delicious.

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  39. I could wander the markets for hours this time of year, photographing the lovely gourds and squash. Such gorgeous photos, Sam! And the gratin is stunning - a work of art!

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  40. Your gratin is very inviting and healthy. Love all those photos of your market place; I envy you!
    Rita

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  41. Sam...I myself had the opportunity to visit quite a special place emphsizing the lovely squash family.

    Your photos are stupendously charming. I feel like I'm right there with you taking in the scenery and the fresh air ;o)

    The gratin is an excellent recipe to put together. Very well done ;)

    Flavourful wishes,
    Claudia

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  42. I could spend hours walking around a beautiful farm stand like this. The colors, the smells, and the crisp air.
    I've been admiring the turban squash for awhile, but was never certain of their name. Great idea to use them as a soup bowl.

    The tart looks beautifully presented!

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  43. Looking at your gorgeous pictures of the farm stand, tears started welling up, thinking of our house in DC, decorated with pumpkins and large mums in russet red. I truly miss fall on the East Coast (and my house!).

    The recipe sounds wonderful, good to remember when the next fall bounty comes in, thank you!

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  44. Great pics!
    Your gratin looks so delicious:)
    Pepela

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  45. Oh my goodness, how fabulous this sounds Sam! Wonderful presentation and beautiful pictures as well!
    Cheers~

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  46. Lovely farm stand. The kind of place I could certainly get lost in. Nothing better than a day spent in the sun around wonderful produce.

    Fantastically striking tomato and zucchini gratin. The cheese is melted to perfection. Gruyere my all time favorite.

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  47. You really captured the produce stand-great pics!

    And you made me hungry too : )

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  48. Enjoyed spending the day with you. You are just as wonderful as I pictured you to be. We need to get together again. Meakin is great too. I feel like I have known you forever.

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  49. This is how I also make my veggie gratin. I love the pictures of our market!

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  50. After tasting this in Montreal, I've been looking for this recipe for so many years. Thanks for sharing, Sam.

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  51. One of my favorite cookbooks, I always go to it for simple lovely recipes.
    Your tian looks beautiful, and that's some gorgeous farm stand!

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  52. I'm also enjoying the wonderful colorful winter squash that is dotting the the farmer's markets these days. It looks like you have quite a few to choose from at your market.
    This is a beautiful gratin! A great way to close the summer season with summer squash!

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  53. Hello Sam, your market photos are lovely. I too love visiting places like this. We are limited here in Franklin.

    Your recipe looks delicious and so pretty. I think I could do this. Smile.

    It was wonderful to meet you at Penny's blog party. Lovely women having a perfectly lovely time together.

    Hugs, Jeanne

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  54. That looks utterly, utterly gorgeous... I am definitely going to make this next time I have all the ingredients (which should be soon). I am addicted to out local farmers' market - thought we're in spring here so it's a different choice of ingredients.
    xx

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  55. Looks like a fun place to visit...love that CUTE birdhouse. Coming over from Jennifer's.

    Blessings,
    Linda

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  56. What a terrific farmers market! I may need to head up your way sometime to get that good produce. The recipe sounds very yummy, and I will have to give it a try sometime. It was so nice to meet you at Penny's home. I enjoyed the conversation all of us had at the table, and the rest of the day too!
    I'll have to come back and look at your Highlands post soon.
    Take Care,
    Ulrike

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  57. I just love farm stands. Your pictures are fantastic! Makes me very envious as winter is almost here in Canada.

    I'm definitely going to try the gratin - it looks so yummy!

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  58. We did have a good time in deed! So nice meeting you!!! We will most certainly have to do it again!!!

    Take care!
    Jennifer

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  59. Sam, what a gorgeous market stand! I haven't been to one like this in the fall for so long; I've got to get out for that weekend drive to hunt for one! Thanks for the photos to let us tag along with you!

    I am sure that your neck of the woods in NC are just beautiful right now. . . not much color here yet, sadly, even now in mid-October. But I can live through your photos! :-) Glad to know that you also enjoyed the bloggers' weekend in Asheville!

    PS....I really enjoyed reading your comment today about Helen, GA....but wanted you to know that I wrote it about 1:00 AM last night and had some additions that were made for other places that you may enjoy as a food enthusiast and as a passionate German as well. I just fell in love with German food and would like to know more about preparing it.

    So anyhow, if the post is now finished for you and others. Sorry, but at 1:00 AM, I can only write a little bit before falling asleep at the computer! LOL!

    Roz

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  60. Sam sorry I here at the farm stand late! I sure don't get to see that down here in Florida! I miss all the fall harvest, we get the leftovers! We do have Georgia peaches at roadside stands though!

    Your gratin is gorgeous...a star for sure!

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  61. the squash/pumpkin in the 4th picture looks very interesting!!

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  62. wow, that's a lot of squash and pumpkins! The different shapes are really interesting.

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  63. Where is this farmstand, Sam? I want to go there.

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  64. A lovely posting, as usual! I enjoyed the farm stands; Florida cannot compete with that!

    Your gratin looks tres magnifique!

    Take care!

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Sam