When the humidity drops and the nights become cool, late summer gratins seem like the perfect transition to fall cuisine. I am not ready for the creams and cheeses of the gratins of late fall and winter, but it does feel good to have a warm and homey dish that is still redolent of summer. The potatoes provide that comfort feeling and the peppers and zucchini remind us that it’s still summer.
Modeled after a dish that Patricia Wells published in Bistro Cooking (which she dubs “Gratin Grand-mere” after the name given to it by a restaurant near Nice), layers of thinly sliced potato are intermingled with red pepper and zucchini. Dressed only with olive oil and seasoned with a little garlic, salt and thyme, the flavors melt into each other in a light but satisfying way. I use a combination of silver leafed thyme and lemon thyme (or if I had more I would use only lemon thyme), which adds a little spark. This recipe makes enough for two or three people depending on what else you’re eating but can be adapted to a much larger group.
Potato, Zucchini and Red Pepper Gratin adapted from Patricia Wells
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb potatoes, preferably a baking type, thinly sliced
1-2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stems
Salt to taste
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into thin rings
1 medium or 2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the garlic in half and rub the bottom of a gratin dish. Coat with a small amount of olive oil, Thinly slice the garlic.
Place a layer of potatoes (which should be 1/3 of the sliced potatoes) on the bottom of the pan, overlapping them and covering the entire surface. Sprinkle with a little salt and thyme and add about a tsp of olive oil. Layer on half the red peppers interspersed with half of the garlic, then add a layer of half of the sliced zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and add about a teaspoonful of olive oil. Repeat the layers and top with the remaining potatoes, sprinkling with thyme, salt and olive oil Decorate with some red pepper if you want.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake the gratin for about 50-60 minutes until the vegetables are very soft and tender. Serve immediately.