My Summer Season
It has been a super busy summer so far for me. In case there was any question, wedding planning takes a whole lot of time and energy, but it was all so worth it to see the beautiful bride wed her handsome groom. I loved spending time with so many of my friends and family, and so appreciated all the time they took from their busy lives to make my daughter’s wedding day so special.
Then it was back to business With lots of kids and teens classes and TV segments on the schedule for the rest of the summer, I needed to get my classes going.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Working with kids and teens in the kitchen is what I love best. Teaching them basic knife skills (or what I think of as life skills) is one of my favorite things to do. Watching kids and teens go from not knowing how to handle a chef’s knife to quickly mastering chop, dice and mince…well there’s no better feeling.
But what’s the best way to get kids to learn those skills? The way we all learn to master a skill, PRACTICE! And lots of it. And this recipe for Potato, Squash, and Cheese Gratin not only helps kids learn to handle a knife, but it turns out to be a very tasty kid-friendly recipe.
How to Handle a Knife
First, with your thumb and index finger, pinch blade of the knife right where it becomes the handle.
Second, wrap the rest of your hand around the handle of the knife.
At this point, the grip of the knife is just perfect. It would be squirming around in your hand or slithering around on the cutting board as you begin to chop.
Super Thin Slicing
The trick to many recipes, including this one for Potato and Goat Cheese Gratin is learning to slice the veggies super thin. And I do mean super THIN!
At home I usually use a mandoline for this task, but that’s a whole new skill to master and not one I’m quit ready to present to children. This is the one I use at home, the OXO Mandoline. It really does the trick.
A mandoline is so very sharp and so very dangerous. How many times did I think, “I can get one more slice,” and I was wrong. OUCH that hurts. Lucky for me, no ER visits…yet! I probably should invest in one of these Cut Resistant Gloves.
Teaching Slicing to Kids
The challenge was to get the kids to pay attention to how they hold their knife and the difference in slice thickness, and therefore, cooking time and the texture and flavor the the finished product.
Potato, Squash, and Cheese Gratin is so simple and uses just a few inexpensive ingredients. Sliced potatoes, sliced summer squash, diced onion, a few sprinkles of Parmesan, a small log of goat cheese or cheese of choice (feta is pretty tasty), with a little milk to top it off. Easy peasy. I also added some chopped basil fresh from my garden to add a little flavor and color to the dish.
At first I thought this would be bland and boring, but it wasn’t. No leftovers either, proving it’s a winner.
Potato, Squash and Cheese Gratin
- 2 medium yellow summer squash about 8 ounces
- 4 small to medium red or yellow potatoes about 1 pound
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for the baking dish
- 1/2 medium onion finely chopped
- 4 ounces fresh goat cheese broken into chunks and divided
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 Tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil or thyme leaves optional
- PLACE oven rack in the middle of the oven. PREHEAT oven to 400°F. Lightly GREASE a 1 1/2- to 2-quart baking dish and DRIZZLE bottom with olive oil.
- SAUTE onion in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until opaque in color.
- SLICE the squash and potatoes into very, very thin slices, about 1/8-inch thick. (A mandoline works great for this but watch your fingers). PLACE the sliced vegetables in a large bowl and TOSS with olive oil. ADD sautéed onion and COMBINE.
- In a small bowl, COMBINE salt, black pepper and garlic powder.
- PLACE 1/3 of the squash, potato and onion evenly in the bottom of the baking dish.
- SEASON with salt/pepper/garlic powder mixture. SPRINKLE with 1/2 of the chunks of goat cheese. REPEAT with another 1/3 of the vegetables. SEASON with salt/pepper/garlic powder mixture. TOP with remaining goat cheese. LAYER remaining vegetables and SEASON with salt/pepper/garlic powder mixture.
- POUR the milk evenly over the entire dish. SPRINKLE with the Parmesan. COVER tightly with aluminum foil. BAKE for 30 minutes. REMOVE foil and BAKE until the top browns, about 15 minutes more. SPRINKLE top with fresh basil or thyme, if using.