Sunday, August 7, 2011

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte


Work lately has been grand.  Word has gotten around that I'm a big fan of fresh produce and lots of the guys are using that as an excuse to pawn off their garden excess.  I have as of late found myself with bags brimming with squash, cucumbers and on one very lucky occasion, beautiful, big blackberries.  But, and I am sorry but there is no other way to say this, it is both a blessing and a curse.  There are only so many things you can do with summer squash.  And disguising them in tortes, hidden between layers of yukon gold potatoes so your boyfriend doesn't notice you're feeding him vegetables, is one of them.

It should come as no surprise that when I went hunting online for recipes to use up my free harvest, my first stop was at the smitten kitchen.  And while I really do promise that I look elsewhere for cooking inspiration, my blog crush has saved me several times when I needed kitchen help.  It makes sense that it is my first stop on any recipe scavenger hunt.  And wouldn't you know it, but my first search resulted in a recipe that was actually already on my "recipes to try" list.  
All I needed was some potatoes and fresh thyme.  

Only I kind of really hate buying a bunch of fresh herbs at $3 a pop, using 2 springs and never being able to use the rest before it goes bad and then laying them to rest in my garbage can.  So I made the executive decision to use dried instead.  It's economical, less wasteful and surely I had some dried thyme in my spice cupboard I told myself.  And then I got home.  Well, actually a few hours later at 8 pm when I started to throw together dinner, I realized that last bit was more or less false.  Dried thyme was no where to be found.  I pulled out a few that I thought could be viable alternatives: oregano, rosemary, basil, but none of them really seemed to be agreeable to me at that moment.  And then there was my mason jar full of herbs de Provence, still hanging around from my trip to Seattle and Pike's Market.  One of the more underused herbs I have, I still love herbs de Provence every time I use it.  Some of that love is definitely for the pretty dried purple lavender flowers nestled among the herbs, which - hey, wouldn't you know it - included thyme.  I found my substitution.

The smell of the potatoes browning in the oven layered with Parmesan cheese and herbs de Provence was mesmerizing.  It was about 30 minutes of an apartment filled with yummy, homey, fresh baked aromas.  It was Ben's first comment as he walked through the door.  A few minutes later it was out of the oven and on our plates.  While Ben wasn't overwhelmed with the torte, I kept finding myself going back for seconds and thirds.  I wasn't blown away by the first bite, but I ate till I was full.  And I am really looking forward to my leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  I could definitely try this again.  I imagine with some zucchini would be good and maybe even some yummy mascarpone smeared in between the layers.  And I may just have to try this again, my produce drawer is more than heavy in the squash department.    

Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced and divided
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, about 3 medium sized
6 oz. yellow crookneck squash, 1 medium sized (zucchini may be delicious as well)
3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch bake pan.  (If using a glass dish, reduce by 25 degrees and preheat to 350)

Slice potatoes and squash into 1/8 inch rounds.  (I suggest using a mandolin.  But be careful.  Sliced my finger something bad while cleaning the thing.  It's a love hate relationship).  Set aside 2 tablespoons of green onions.  Mix remaining onions and next 5 ingredients, through pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
In prepared pan, layered 1/3 of sliced potatoes in concentric circles, overlapping slightly.  Layer 1/2 of squash slices on top.  Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with 1/3 of onion/cheese mixture.  Press layers down slightly.  Repeat: potatoes, squash, oil, cheese, potatoes, oil, cheese.  Press gently to flatten.

Cover pan with foil and bake until potatoes are almost tender, about 40 minutes.  Remove foil from torte and continue baking until it is browned and potatoes are tender, about 20-25 minutes longer.   Remove from onion and sprinkle with leftover green onions.  Slice into wedges and serve. 

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