I love September in Portland, in fact I think it's my favorite time of year anywhere. Living In the Pacific Northwest sometimes we'll luck into an Indian Summer, temperatures are a bit cooler this year, the sun is still shining and my garden is going off! All of those tomatoes. The tomatoes I've been nursing along since Spring, watering, waiting for their yellow blooms, watching the bees work their magic around the clock, it's been a nice collaboration. Finally, little green orbs appear that grow into big green orbs and then you wait and wait and wait. In the mean time there are enough other lovely distractions, snap peas, romano beans and swiss chard to keep me busy and complacent.
Let's go back in time for a moment to earlier this Spring with me at the nursery. I always tell myself "self you are only buying three plants", and inevitably I walk out with six. There are way to many choices, Copia, Costoluto Genovese, Indigo Apple and Jujube Cherry. They all sound so lovely and I have zero self control in these matters. Growing a garden is something I've done all my life. My parents always had a vegetable patch of some sorts and I can remember spending time with them while they were tending to it, watching tiny seedlings become giant squash and sneaking handfuls of snap peas while no one was looking. Later in life my family acquired some acreage in Colorado, before they even built the house they planned out a small fruit orchard replete with peaches, plums, apples, apricots and sour cherries. I've always thought of this home as a little piece of heaven, other family members have given it the title of "rancho deluxo", either way it's always been a source of inspiration for me in how I plant my garden each year. This years garden was also influenced by my two sons. I thought it would be fun to bring them along and help pick out the plants. Their choices were based purely on color, purple carrots, yellow beets, brown peppers....I think you get the idea. At first hand it was a little hard for me to let go of my total override of what would be planted, but their enthusiasm won me over in the end and I'm so glad it did. All of their excitement carried over into the summer in the anticipation of picking and eating their bounty.
This gratin includes some of the best elements of summer veggies, corn, tomatoes and basil. The combination of the three mixed in with a bit of cream, sharp parmesan and a crunchy bread crumb topping is brilliant and the ease of this recipe insures you will make it more than once.
Corn and Tomato Gratin
Adapted from Gourmet
1 1/2 lb red or yellow tomatoes, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups fresh corn kernels (from 7 ears of corn)
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (from a day old baguette, including crust)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 oz finely grated parmesan (1/2 cup)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus additional for buttering pan
Arrange tomato slices in 1 layer on a rack set in a shallow baking pan and sprinkle on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Let drain 30 minutes.
While tomatoes drain, bring corn, milk, cream and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a 3 quart heavy sauce pan over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly uncovered.
Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow 2 quart baking dish.
Toss together bread crumbs, basil, cheese and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in another bowl.
Arrange one third of tomato slices in baking dish, then cover evenly with one third of bread crumb mixture and dot with one third of butter. Spoon half of corn mixture over crumbs, then repeat layering with half of remaining tomatoes, crumbs, and butter and all of the corn. Arrange remaining tomatoes over corn, then top with remaining bread crumbs and dot with remaining butter.
Bake, uncovered until top is golden and gratin is bubbling all over, 40-45 minutes. Cool slight yon a rack, about 15 minutes before serving.