In my house, a “field trip” makes anything sound exciting to my son, so I use those words liberally. Let’s take a field trip to Lowe’s, CVS, Academy! Our latest field trip was to the Farmers Market. I love fresh, ripe, seasonal vegetables and fruits and love to support small, local farms. Blame it on my five years living in Italy. Hopefully, my son will one day love those things, too. If not, he will at least know what fresh okra and squash blossoms look like.
Generally, I recommend getting to farmers markets early for the best pick of the produce. Realistically, we have a hard time leaving the house before 10 am on a Saturday. We headed to a farmers market in town (see below to find farmers markets in Austin, San Antonio and Houston). My son had his own shopping bag which delighted him to no end. I let him pick all the produce we bought that day. He was in charge and soaking it up.
He loaded his bag with fresh beans, small sweet peppers, eggplants and a peach gifted to him by a farmer. After explaining to him that no, Mommy was not going to cook 10 eggplants, we settled on five. In the end, our haul included freshly shelled beans, cherry tomatoes, a watermelon, the one peach, eggplant, peppers, zucchini and yellow crookneck squash.
Hmmm, what to make of all this—a zucchini cheddar gratin obviously! My son was happy to be my sous chef, and below is the delicious recipe we prepared together. Almost every step can be done by kids. My son is a daredevil, so I don’t yet let him anywhere near a knife or flame. I chopped and cooked the zucchini and grated the cheese. Everything else he did and, more importantly, wanted to do. Can I just repeat that? He wanted to do something that did not involve toy cars! I told him I couldn’t wait until he could cook Mommy and Daddy dinner. He seemed thrilled at the prospect. Mission accomplished!
And the final verdict from my son: “I love gratin.” He has never eaten one of my gratins before, so I’ll credit his change of heart to the fact that he made it.
Kid-Friendly Zucchini Cheddar Gratin
Salt and pepper to taste
4 medium zucchini, cut into thin rounds
Breadcrumbs, fresh (yeah, right. Store bought with or without herbs is just fine.)
1 c. Asiago, grated (or any hard cheese)
¾ c. sharp cheddar, grated
1 c. whole milk (cream if you want to be decadent)
¼ c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. dried thyme or rosemary
Pie dish, quiche dish or any bakeware dish you have on hand
Cook zucchini in olive oil until soft. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. Grease pie dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs and half of the grated Asiago on bottom of dish. In large bowl whisk eggs and milk. Whisk in flour, herbs and cheddar. Using a slotted spoon to drain off any liquid, scoop zucchini into bowl. Mix until zucchini are coated evenly. Pour mixture into dish. Sprinkle remaining Asiago on top. Cover with as many breadcrumbs as you wish. Bake at 400° for 45-55 minutes or until there’s a nice golden crust on top.
Usborne’s Look Inside Food for little kids shows all the different ways we grow and harvest food. It really is about from farm to table and is a great complement to a farmers market field trip.