If there is one picture that perfectly describes my infatuation with summer it is this one. A super chilled bottle of Rosé on our top deck in the last of the afternoon sun is bliss. Combined with some of Ina Garten's Parmesan and Thyme Crackers (which no matter how I try, I can't stop the parmesan from bubbling into little polka dots all over the cracker), is a perfect combo.
I feel as if I've spent most of July enjoying the evenings just like this. Things seem to slow down to a crawl. On our evening strolls through the neighborhood with the dog, I can barely get my husband above a shuffle.
When I actually do attempt to cook (and these days, it's been few and far between), I love a good gratin. Especially if it screams summer like this vidalia onion and green tomato version. Truth be told, I currently have a girl crush on Claire Robinson and all of her 5 ingredient fixes. Her recipes are fresh, quick, simple and seasonal. Her chipotle-lime chicken tacos are scrummy served alongside a crunchy red cabbage slaw with this season's freshest grilled corn. They are Martin's favorite.
In the middle of summer, while trying to escape the hottest part of the Chicago summer, a spicy dish like blackened cajun catfish and this gratin seriously hit the spot. As much as I've been scarfing down cool watermelon and salads, this is truly the answer to a homemade summer Sunday supper.
I've currently got some golden cherry tomatoes going crazy on my top deck and as they ripen, I'm collecting enough in a bowl in the fridge to make some mid-week pasta. As much as I adore nothing better than summer-time tomatoes- sliced quickly, sprinkled with some sea salt and a dash of freshly cracked pepper, I do like to cook them as well. Take a look back to this tomato pie, and you won't be sorry.
In the same vein, the following is reason enough to find a few green tomatoes, still un-ripened and ready to mix it up with it's good friends the sweet vidalia onion, cheddar, bacon and golden breadcrumbs. Served it with this spicy cajun catfish or, just on it's own with a big green salad.
Adapted from Claire Robinson
For the Creole butter:
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temp
1 tbsp creole or cajun seasoning
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
For the fish:
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Creole butter (above)
4 x 8 oz fresh, skinless, boneless catfish fillets
1/4 cup of Creole or cajun seasoning
chives for serving
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a bowl, combine the butter, spice mix, lemon zest and lemon juice, salt, pepper and chives. You can make this ahead and chill it, but bring it back to room temp before using.
Preheat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. I use my seasoned iron grill that's perfect for this. Line the bottom of a baking dish with the lemon slices and dollop half of the butter evenly over the lemon. Evenly coat the fish fillets with 1 tbsp of the seasoning and cook on the hot skillet for 2 minutes on each side, to really toast and brown the seasoning.
Carefully place the fish on top of the buttered lemon slices and bake until it easily breaks apart with a fork- about 12- 15 minutes. Top each fillet with a spoonful of the butter and serve with a few chives sprinkled on top.
Green Tomato and Vidalia Onion Gratin
Adapted from Claire Robinson
1/4 pound bacon
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 large Vidalia onions, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
4 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/5 inch thick
kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 oz sharp white Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Render the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Transfer the cooked bacon to a plate lined with paper towel. Add the bread crumbs to a small bowl and pour 2 tbsps of bacon fat from the skillet into the bowl and stir through. Add the onion rounds to the skillet and cook until golden in color- about 5 minutes each side. You don't want them falling apart, so try not to break up the rounds.
To assemble, overlap the green tomato slices on the bottom of a baking dish (about 9x11). Add the onions on top and repeat until all are used. Season generously with salt and pepper and then crumble the bacon over the veggies. Sprinkle the Cheddar of the top followed by the bread crumbs. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until golden and bubbly.
If you're cooking the fish at the end of the gratin's cooking cycle and the bread crumbs are becoming too dark, cover with foil.