Vegetable Stews and Gratins

In fall we near the end of our Vermont growing season and the final days of the local farmer’s markets. There are still vegetables to be picked and stored and sometimes there are odds and ends to be combined into a stir fry or, as in the case of this cooking column, stews and gratins, using a variety of vegetables and seasonings. Stews and gratins are a heartier way of cooking produce, not the simpler ways of preparing the first spring freshness of our garden. In fall vegetables are more mature and the weather brings on a heartier appetite more fitting with the change in seasonal temperatures and activities.

Gratins are basically prepared foods finished in the oven or broiler with a topping of butter, cheese and/or bread. Parmesan cheese is the favorite for use in a gratin. The container used in this method is usually a shallow oven proof casserole type which allows a larger surface of the concoction to become browned and crispy on top. The presentation of a gratin is quite appealing and should be served hot from the oven, although quite often the prepared dish maybe refrigerated or stored at room temperature hours in advance of finishing it off in the oven. This makes it a convenient dish for a party or special family dinner. Always bring the gratin to room temperature before the final bake or broil.

It is hard to maintain the crispness of vegetables in a stew, but as in ratatouille — really a vegetable stew —they don’t have to be ‘al dente” to be enjoyable. In fact, in ratatouille, flavors deepen and become more delicious with cooking. I love vegetables as a side or a main course and I hope you will too as you enjoy these recipes. As ever, bon appétit.


(A colorful fall dish. Serves 8 to 10)

3½ Pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 Large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 TBS olive oil
2 Large garlic cloves, minced
3 TBS fresh parsley, minced
1½ tsps minced herbs de Provence
Salt and pepper to taste
½ Cup grated Parmesan cheese

Stir together squash, red bell pepper, oil, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 2 quart gratin dish. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Bake in the middle of the oven at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.


(One dish prepared and served in the casserole. Serves 8 plus)

4 TBS butter or olive oil
1 Large garlic clove, minced
1 Red onion diced
1 Large green pepper cut in chunks
4 large celery stalks, sliced diagonally into 1 inch lengths
3 small zucchini, sliced diagonally into 1 inch lengths
½ pound green beans cut into 2 inch lengths
3 Tomatoes, deseeded and diced
½ Cup chicken broth
1 Lemon’s juice
½ tsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil or 1 TBS fresh, chopped
1 to 2 tsps salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ Cup minced parsley, plus more for garni
¼ Cup grated parmesan cheese

In a large deep casserole, to be used for serving the stew, sauté onion and garlic in butter, stirring occasionally for about 3 minutes. Add peppers and celery and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green beans and cook 3 minutes more. Add zucchini and cook 3 minutes then add tomatoes, lemon juice, ¼ Cup chicken broth, basil, sugar, salt, pepper and parsley. Cook for 10 minutes or till vegetables are done to taste. Add more broth if necessary.

To serve sprinkle with parsley and parmesan cheese.


CAULIFLOWER GRATIN (An old standby. Serves 8)

1 Large cauliflower
¼ Pound boiled ham, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 hard cooked eggs, chopped
4 TBS fine dry bread crumbs, (try Panko)
¼ Cup butter, plus more for buttering casserole
4 TBS grated Parmesan cheese

Wash cauliflower and separate flowerets. Cook in a small amount of boiling water 8 to 10 minutes till al dente. Drain, mix with ham and arrange in a buttered 2 quart gratin casserole. Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle cauliflower with eggs, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dot with butter. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve hot.



(A little Italian flavor. Serves 6)

6 Small artichokes
1 Pound green peas, fresh or frozen
3 TBS olive oil
1 TBS minced onion
½ Cup chicken broth
Juice of one lemon and rind cut in strips
3 TBS butter
¼ Cup of prosciutto, diced
Salt and pepper

Prepare artichokes by cutting off stem, removing tough outer leaves and cutting off about 1 inch at the top. Boil or steam in water with lemon juice and rind, covered, about 20 minutes or till a leaf of artichoke pulls out easily with tongs. Drain well.

Cut artichoke in quarters and remove pith with a tea spoon.

In a large sauté pan or casserole sauté onions in butter till soft. Add oil, ham, peas and artichokes. Stir to coat with oils and juices. Cover and cook over a low to medium flame till done, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally adding chicken broth to keep moist, if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.



(A little touch of France. Serves 8 to 10)

4 Cups thinly sliced fennel bulb, about 2½ pounds
6 Cups thinly sliced white and pale green part of leek, carefully washed to remove dirt between layers
6 TBS butter or olive oil or a combo of both
2 Large garlic cloves, minced
1/ 3 Cup plus 2 TBS freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 TBS minced fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
One (1½ Pound) eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut in ½ inch slices
3 Tomatoes, halved and cut into ½ inch slices
4 Small summer squash (1 Pound) cut into ½ inch slices
3 TBS olive oil

Cook fennel and leeks in butter over medium heat, covered, for 20 minutes or till vegetables are soft. Stir in garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Spread evenly over a large shallow baking dish and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese.

Arrange eggplant, tomatoes and squash on top of fennel mixture alternating and overlapping the rows of vegetables. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 TBS Parmesan cheese. Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.


(A Brussels sprouts disguise. Serves 8 to 10)

2½ to 3 Pounds Brussels sprouts
Boiling salted water
12 Slices bacon, diced
One small onion, finely chopped
3 TBS flour
1½ Cups whole milk
1/ 3 Cup dry white wine
½ tsp each salt and oregano
¼ tsp pepper
¾ tsp dill weed

Clean sprouts and remove outer tough leaves. Cook in boiling salted water to cover till just tender. Drain well and arrange in a shallow 2 quart casserole.

Fry bacon over medium heat till crisp, drain and set aside. Discard all but 4 TBS drippings, add onion and cook until limp. Stir in flour and cook till bubbly, remove from heat and gradually stir in milk. Cook stirring until mixture boils and is thick.

Add wine, salt, pepper, oregano and dill and all but 2 TBS bacon bits. Pour sauce evenly over sprouts. Sprinkle with remaining bacon bits. Bake uncovered in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes or till heated through. ◊

Barbara Little is a regular columnist for Stratton magazine.