that's a lot of zucchini
Dear readers, watch out... cause it's SHARK WEEK on the The Public Kitchen. Aaaaahhhh!

Wait, did I say "shark?" I meant "squash": it's SQUASH WEEK on the The Public Kitchen. Noooooomm! There are a few key difference between sharks and squash. For example: we eat squash, but sharks eat us. However, as the shark is top dog in the ocean, squash are often top dog in the home garden. Squash are easy to grow and the plants are prolific.

I helped myself to patty pan squash from a friend's Highland Park garden at the beginning of the summer and I filled a basket with yellow zucchini from my parents' backyard a couple of week ago. In both instances, I barely made a dent in the crop. And in both instances, I displayed the squash for a couple of days and then started to wonder what I should do with it.

And Lynne Rossetto Kasper came to my aid as she so often does. I'm a loyal Splendid Table listener (although, ever since a friend mocked my appreciation of the show by saying "up next, how to brine your pickles and how to pickle your brine," I do think of that every time I hear Lynne's voice) and several times Kasper has seemed nearly prescient, providing recipes for the exact ingredients lingering around my kitchen. Such was the case with zucchini. A guest on the show gave her recipe for Zucchini Tian, a cheesey gratin bound by rice and magic.

I've made the tian twice. Once with a variety of small summer squash from the farmer's market and again with my parents' yellow zucchini and several cobs-worth of corn kernels. The first time I used Arborio rice AKA risotto rice, as the recipe suggests. I've attempted risotto a few times and only really succeeded once. I tend to multi-task in the kitchen and it's against my nature to stand in one place stirring for as long as it takes to cook Arborio rice. But I happened to have exactly 1/2 a cup of the stuff, so I stood there, stirring and adding liquid for what felt like hours. It did give me a chance to discuss the following topics: is punk dead, how can a punk aesthetic be used in cooking, best places to pick wild fennel (empty lots in the Hollywood Hills). The second time I made the tian, I forgot it called for rice until I was 2/3 through the recipe and quickly made some white rice. I liked the white rice better.

The second time, I bought some gruyere, the cheese the recipe calls for. That first time, though, I used cheeses already in my fridge that had a gruyere-like texture. The first time, I had an onion; the second time I didn't, so I substituted leeks and shallots. The first time I happened to have bread crumbs, and the second time I crumbled up some crackers instead. Do you see a theme? There are certain recipes it's best to make as they are written and there are some recipes that do an excellent job of cleaning out your fridge. This is one of those fridge cleaning-out recipes. Have something in the hearty vegetable family? Use it. Have a grateable hard cheese? Use it. Have something in the onions/leek/shallot family? Use it. Have something that would make a nice crispy carb-y topping? Use it.

The one consistent thing about both tries at tian: it was delicious.

Whatever squash you have growing in your backyard, or whatever your generous friend or parent has growing, I bet you could use it in this tian. And you can take the leftovers with you for lunch the next day and think about how wonderful a thing is the home garden.

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