Freshly picked sweet corn, juicy tomatoes of varying lineages, bunches of leafy greens, slender pods of okra, fragrant herbs. Those are just some of the end-of-summer temptations at my local farmers’ market this time of the year. Often they serve as inspiration for the side dishes I prepare at home.
One recent creation, prepared with such purchases, was a delicious corn, tomato, and chard gratin. I sautéed corn kernels with leeks and julienned chard, then combined them with a savory custard of Half-and-Half, eggs, and grated white cheddar. This mixture was poured into a casserole pan, then topped with sliced tomatoes and another sprinkle of cheese. When baked the gratin was a lovely contrast of flavors with the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes countering the hint of slightly bitter chard.
This side dish is so versatile that you could pair it with any number of main courses. Try it with barbecued ribs, or with grilled lamb chops or flank steaks. It would also make a good partner to roasted salmon or to steamed lobsters. Add a salad of just picked greens tossed in your favorite dressing to round out a menu for this long holiday weekend. Happy Labor Day to all and safe travels if you’re on the road!
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Savory Corn, Tomato, and Chard Gratin
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened for greasing the baking pan
3/4 lb. firm, ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced l/4-inch thick
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped leeks (about 2 medium leeks)
3 ears corn, scraped to make 2 cups corn kernels
1 tsp chopped garlic
l/4 lb. chard leaves, cleaned, dried, tough center stems removed, and leaves finely julienned (about 1 1/4 cups packed)
2/3 cup Half-and-Half
2 large eggs
Two generous pinches cayenne pepper
l cup plus 2 tbsp grated sharp white cheddar (about 4 to 5 ounces)
1 tbsp chopped chives, divided
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish and set aside.
2. Arrange sliced tomatoes on a double layer of paper towels. Sprinkle them lightly with salt and black pepper and cover with another double layer of paper towels.
3. In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, heat oil until hot. Add leeks and corn kernels, and cook, stirring constantly, until both are just softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and chard and stir 1 minute more. Transfer the corn mixture to a large bowl and cool l0 minutes.
4. In a mixing bowl whisk together Half- and-Half, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, several grinds of black pepper, and two generous pinches of cayenne pepper. Stir in the corn mixture. Then add half of the cheese and stir well again.
5. Pour corn mixture into the prepared baking dish and spread it evenly. In an overlapping design, cover the top with tomato slices. Sprinkle remaining cheese over them. Bake until gratin is set, about 40 minutes. Remove and cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chives. Serves 5 to 6.
Note: This recipe can be doubled easily. Instead of a 2-quart, baking dish, use a 3-quart one such as a 9-by 13-inch pyrex dish.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2016