Summer Squash and Herb Gratin

by rivka on July 21, 2014 · 2 comments

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The most obvious solution to the “problem” of those oversized, seed-filled summer squash is to make a gratin. When you slice those massive squash as thinly as possible, blanket them in something creamy, and top the pile with something crunchy, the so-called problem is a problem no more.

However, gratins cause a problem of their own (one that’s slightly more real than a glut of summer produce): flooding. Summer squash are like 80% water, and if you aren’t careful, they’ll flood even your most carefully constructed casserole. If you’ve ever made a gratin with plain sliced squash, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve gotta serve it with a slotted spoon, and even then, the liquid pools in the pan and on the plate, ruining what could have been a good thing.

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Most recipes that call for cooked squash tell you to salt and strain it in advance. This is good advice. But to really avoid any pooling whatsoever, you need to kick the draining process into overdrive.

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This is the most glamorous thing to do with the half-bag of stale tortilla chips languishing at the bottom of your snack drawer. (Come clean: it’s there.) Instead of throwing them away — or, as I do, letting them sit there getting even more stale until not even the greatest of hunger pangs can motivate you to open the bag, and then throwing them away — you can dunk them into a vat of good ranchera sauce, pile on some toppings, and call it breakfast. Yes, I’m telling you to eat tortilla chips for breakfast. I’m sorry, do you need more convincing?

Somehow, in a feat of magic and wonder, you can soak a tortilla chip in sauce, and it stays just crunchy enough to make for a delightful meal. If you put a bit of queso fresco and some scallions on top, it even starts to look healthy. I admit, it’s confusing. In a very good way.

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Yet another recipe from Roberto Santibanez’s excellent book, these chilaquiles remind me of the ones that we had a few summers ago in Santa Fe. If I were feeling ambitious, I’d make both the red and the green sauce in his book, and serve the chilaquiles “divorciados” (half red, half green). But on a lazy Saturday, that kind of potchkeing isn’t in the cards. I’ve got half a bag of semi-fresh homemade tortilla chips from Luna’s Tortillas, which I visited on last week’s business trip to Dallas. I have a jar of ranchera sauce in the fridge, as well as a bit of fresh feta cheese and heavy cream (two very fine substitutes for queso fresco and crema). No cilantro, but I’ve got scallions from my CSA. Five minutes later, I have chilaquiles, a happy stomach, and a bebe who, from the strength of its kicking, seems to enjoy breakfast as much as I did.

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