Some cooks have a natural gift in the kitchen. My good friend Paula is one such cook. Paula has been a bartender at Prune in New York City, a chef on a ranch in Hill Country, and a cookbook author. Now the senior travel editor for Southern Living, most of her cooking takes place at home.
If you stay at Paula's, there are flowers in your bedroom and freshly made biscuits for breakfast. When I arrived at her house in Austin recently, she had some slices of cured boar salumi laid out on a cutting board, and Riesling chilled.
For dinner, she served a summer squash gratin by Suzanne Goin, a friend of hers. She took the recipe from Suzanne's book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, and added some chile. Because that's what Texans do. Along with the gratin, Paula passed around a soft cows milk cheese and some bread. Peach pie was for dessert. It was 95 degrees in Austin. Summer squash and peaches were exactly what I wanted to eat. —Amanda Hesser
1 teaspoon fresh marjoram or oregano leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
coarsely chopped mint
coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
extra-virgin olive oil
small clove garlic
capers, drained (rinsed if salt-packed)
lemon, for juicing
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups
fresh coarse breadcrumbs
New Mexico chile or jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
grated Gruyere cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In This Recipe
Make the salsa verde. Using a mortar and pestle (or a food processor, I won't tell anyone), pound the herbs to a paste. You may have to do this in batches. Work in some of the olive oil, and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Pound the garlic and anchovy, and add them to the herbs.
Gently pound the capers until they're partially crushed, and add them to the herbs. Stir in the remaining oil, a pinch of black pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Make the gratin. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Toss the slices in a large bowl with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and let sit 10 minutes.
Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the butter and cook for a few minutes, until it browns and smells nutty. Pour the brown butter over the breadcrumbs (being sure to scrape all the brown bits into the bowl with a rubber spatula). Wait a minute or so for the butter to cool, and toss well.
Drain the squash and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the shallots, minced garlic, thyme, chile, 1/2 cup salsa verde, and some pepper. Toss to combine, and add the cheese and half the butter-coated breadcrumbs. Toss again, and taste for seasoning. (The raw garlic will taste strong at this point but will be delicious when cooked.)
Place the squash in a pretty 9-by-9-inch (or equivalent) gratin dish (I used a skillet). Scatter the remaining breadcrumbs over the top, and bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the squash is tender and the top is crisp.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.