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Did I ever tell you guys about the time that joining a CSA almost killed me?

No?  Really?  Hmmm.  You would think that’s something I would have mentioned seeing as how I divulge every other inappropriate detail of my life.

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Okay, well, better late than never!

The story goes like this.

Hi, my name is Joanne and I am a control freak.

(I asked The.Boy. about this the other day and he said “Well, only about your cookbooks.  And your spices.  And running.  And going to bed before 11.  And your stand mixer.  And did I mentioned your cookbooks?”  Um, yeah. I’m kind of overprotective of my cookbooks. What’s your point.)

I’m especially bad when it comes to food.  I menu plan like a crazy person and when things don’t go quite the way I intend…well. Let’s just say it’s not pretty.

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So being part of a CSA was pretty much torture for me.

Our pick-up day was Tuesday so Wednesday through Friday I was fine because I had my food, I knew what I was making, no problem.

Then came Saturday.  Grocery shopping day.  Also known as hair-pulling-out-of-severe-stress day in the Eats Well With Others household.

Because….how does one grocery shop without a menu plan?  And how does one menu plan when one has NO IDEA what vegetables one is going to be graced with on Tuesday?  And really, the ultimate question, how does one go a WHOLE 24 WEEKS LIVING LIKE THIS?!?!?

It was like being on an episode of Top Chef where, yeah sure, you know what the challenge is going to be but you also know that as soon as you go to Whole Foods, get back to the kitchen, and start prepping, Padma is going to inform you that the rules have changed and everything that you’ve bought is totally useless.  Except, unlike in Top Chef, there is no money prize nor do you get to stare at Tom Colicchio’s adorable bald head for hours on end.

And all you get is dinner.  Whooptie do.

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That’s not to say there weren’t things I loved about my CSA.

I loved the satisfaction I got from polishing off an entire share that was meant to feed a family of four.  All by myself.

I loved knowing that all of the veggies I was eating had been pulled from the (organically fertilized) ground just hours before.

But mostly…I loved all the heirloom tomatoes.  We got pounds and pounds of them and, even though I know I paid for the CSA at some point, by the time tomato season rolled around it felt like I was getting them for free (especially when I saw the price of heirlooms at the farmer’s market. Eep!).

Sigh.  I do miss those tomatoes.  They were almost worth the nervous breakdown.  Almost.

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Which is why I was eternally grateful when I saw that this year, Trader Joe’s started selling local heirlooms by the box!  At a reasonable price!!  Major win.

So I still get all the satisfaction of walking home with my little cardboard box chock full of local farm fresh tomatoes.  But I get to do it on my time, on my terms, when I want to.  No hair pulling required. Totally menu plan friendly.

Nice.

Probably my favorite thing I’ve made with those tomatoes this summer…is this gratin.  I didn’t have super high hopes for it but I have to say, it was amazing.  It tastes exactly the way that summer feels.  Bright and fresh and full of sunshine and happiness.  And really, you just can’t go wrong with that.

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Tomato, Squash and Red Pepper Gratin
Serves 4-6, adapted from Cooking Light August 2012

Ingredients

  • 5 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups chopped red onion
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 lb yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 cup almond milk or 2% reduced fat milk
  • 3 oz aged gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 oz French bread baguette, torn
  • 12 oz heirloom tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add 4 tsp oil and swirl to coat.  Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the squash and garlic and cook for 4 minutes.  Place the veggie mixture in a large bowl.  Stir in the quinoa, basil, thyme, 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper.  Taste for seasoning.
  3. Combine the remaining 1/4 tsp salt, milk, cheese and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Add the milk mix to the veggie mix, stirring until just combined.  Spoon into a 9×9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.
  4. Place the bread in a food processor.  Pulse until coarse crumbs form.  Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tsp olive oil to the pan, swirling to coat.  Add the breadcrumbs.  Cook, stirring, 3 minutes or until toasted.
  5. Arrange tomatoes evenly over the veggie mixture in the pan.  Top evenly with the breadcrumbs.  Bake at 375 for 40 minutes or until topping is browned.

For more light and healthy recipes that use summer tomatoes, check out Cooking Light’s tomato recipe round up here!
Also, here are some oldie but goodie recipes of mine that use summer tomatoes:
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Red Onions, Dill and Feta
Homemade Spaghetti with Heirloom Tomatoes, Capers, Anchovies and Chile
Cannellini Beans with Fresh Basil, Tomatoes, Capers and Zucchini over Polenta
Spelt Berries with Roasted Pepper Sauce
Pasta with Tomato Peach Sauce
Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and Tapenade Pizza with Goat Cheese
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You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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81 Responses to Tomato, Squash and Red Pepper Gratin

  1. This is why I love you! I don’t know if I could ever do a CSA either. Though I guess I would be up for the challenge. I MISS YOU, P.S.

  2. I totally had the same problem with my CSA last year, which arrived on Monday. SO difficult to menu plan! This gratin makes me sort of kinda excited for fall and cozy, cheesy dishes… but I love that you used seasonal veggies!

  3. Simply Life says:

    haha, I totally understand! I pick-up my CSA thursdays and while it’s nice to have it before the weekend, it still throws off the meal planning! I do have tons of tomatoes though and have been LOVING them!

  4. Absolutely gorgeous dish! I love the fresh veggies with nice creamy cheese and fun crunchy topping! Those heirlooms are gorgeous and I love that you kept them thick and distinguishable in the recipe. YUM!

  5. Erin says:

    WOW. A perfect end-of-summer/ welcome-to-fall dish! Absolutely gorgeous photos too.

  6. daphne says:

    totally understand why u want control! i’m the same.. but hey, it makes meals tastier with a good plan right? this looks fantastic and perfect for dinner tonight.

  7. I hear ya on the CSA! I only learn the day before our pick-up day which veggies we’re receiving. I’d prefer more notice so I can plan, but what are ya gonna do?! 🙂 I don’t know why I haven’t thought to make a delicious gratin like this yet this summer! Geeez. Guess I better get crackin’ – maybe tomorrow, since it’s our CSA day. But wait, I haven’t hear yet what we’re getting so I can’t plan 🙂

  8. Carrie says:

    I had EXACTLY this same problem… and wondered what was wrong with me that this would stress me out so much! 🙂 My final solution: Box gets dropped off on Wednesday, so I meal-plan that night and grocery shop on Thursday for the “fill-ins” like meat, bread and dairy. I do love the fact that this has pushed me hugely in terms of what I cook, and my kids love the ‘surprise!’ aspect of “the box”, which means they are more prone to try things from it!

  9. I’ve been wanting to do CSA…which one did you do? I’ve looked into it but don’t really get how it works. Do you have to like go volunteer there or something?

    This sounds majorly tasty. I should make it before the yummy summer tomatoes are gone!

  10. I would love to do a CSA for those tomatoes alone. The gratin looks fantastic!

  11. Amy says:

    I did a CSA for a few months last summer…and cancelled for the exact reasons you mentioned. I MUST menu plan. It goes in line with my meticulous Type A personality and OCD behavior. I found that too many of the items in my box would go bad before I could use them…because I had already planned my menu by the time they arrived. The bad outweighed the good. *sadness* What I would give for a box of heirloom tomatoes!

  12. kelsey says:

    you have outdone yourself with this one. I’ve officially passed out from seeing these pics. adding this to my weekend food must try!

  13. bellini says:

    CSA for one person would be a little overwhelming. My solution to your dilemma, grocery shop on Wednesday…smile.

  14. Emily says:

    this looks delicious! I hear you on shopping/planning on the weekends

  15. You crack me up. I am also a control freak. I learned to menu plan the day after CSA pickup day. It’s a little weird at first, but totally doable. The first few meals are with staples. The next you get fancy because you’ve been to the store.

    Must try to make this.

  16. Danielle says:

    This is a beautiful dish!I wish I was more organized and better at menu planning 🙁

  17. Beth says:

    Sounds like a big win! And your gratin looks lovely.

  18. Faith says:

    Lol, I’m a total planner and that would frustrate me to no end too! 🙂 I so wish they would open up a TJ’s in my area!!

  19. I was the exact same way when we joined a CSA- I want to do it again but am nervous about all of those unknowns lol.

    Oh and did I mention that this looks amazing?

  20. Lora says:

    Shopping dilemmas suck. Period. This recipe is exactly what I like to eat on summer evenings. Perfect!

  21. I’m glad you found an alternative to your CSA stress! This dish looks yummy.

  22. Ha! Giving up your agenda is definitely an important piece when you are part of a CSA 🙂 I love TJ’s – do the bulk of my shopping there and usually, if they don’t have it today, they will tomorrow. Yum!

  23. london bakes says:

    I adore the idea of this gratin, what a wonderful combination of flavours!

  24. What? Our TJ’s don’t have those Heirloom boxes. I want that! I hear you Joanne – that is what I hate about CSA’s as well but now they seem to have changed and for the most part you can look at a list of what will be in the box in advance (and even swap out what you might not want).

  25. Miriam says:

    Awesome meal 🙂 I’m not a part of a CSA but I have gardening gurus surrounding me and I never know what I’ll end up with on my porch. Right now I need to figure out a way to use up about 12 zucchini, 9 squash, and 13 tomatoes (all fresh from the garden), and I have to use them up fast because I get new stuff every day. I’m sure I’ll figure out something (this recipe will be helpful *wink*). Thanks!
    [email protected]Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  26. Christine says:

    Aren’t TJ’s heirlooms the best?! So affordable. This is a great gratin btw, going on the “to-make” list 🙂

  27. Dining Alone says:

    Well I am glad to know I am not the only one who is kind of wacky about menu planning, and the dire consequences if that menu gets messed with 🙂 That gratin looks amazing.

  28. Julie says:

    I’m glad you maintained your sanity and walked away with this delicious looking gratin. I’m going to make your green goddess enchiladas later today. I’m unreasonably nervous..ha!

  29. Kalyn Denny says:

    Oh this sounds so delicious and I have all these veggies right now.

  30. Ahhh I am so the same as you! I’m trying to learn to lighten up a bit, but I’m not doing very well! Also, I need to check and see if my TJ’s has heirlooms!! Oh and ALSO this gratin looks out of control good!

    Sues

  31. sandra says:

    I had a similar problem with my CSA, although quite different just the same. I didn’t mind not knowing what I was going to get, so much as getting tons of things I had no idea how to cook – like tomatillos. We got tons of the stuff. And squash blossoms. Tons again. Perhaps it was just the CSA I belonged to, but we’ve done our own vegetable shopping for the past four years, mostly at the Farmers’ Market, and haven’t looked back.

  32. Haha, so funny. I don’t do a CSA just because my work-travel schedule is too unpredictable, but I do completely freak out when I go to the store and I can’t find an ingredient I need! So I feel your pain. Luckily heirloom tomatoes aren’t too hard to come by at this point in summer because this recipe looks amazing!

  33. Oh wow. “It tastes exactly how summer feels.” Talk about a selling point. I can’t wait to try this. I’ll have to make it this weekend.

  34. Shannon says:

    that sounds amazing, and you’re right, exactly like summer 🙂 i didn’t do a csa and i miss it… haven’t had time to meal plan and i would’ve at least liked some veggies to play around with!

  35. What a gorgeous, colorful and wholesome gratin. This looks right up my alley! Wonderful dish, Joanne. You’ve knocked my socks off again!

  36. Eileen says:

    When we were on a CSA, it was pretty tough to use it all up–but since I’m way less of a menu planner, the big problem was having things go bad. Giant gratins like this definitely became part of our repertoire! And if you’re getting all those beautiful tomatoes in your share, I’m pretty jealous, even if it’d be hard to use them up. 🙂

  37. Camila Faria says:

    Hahaha… I can totally relate to this. I go to a little menu-planning-crazy mode every once in a while.

  38. Monet says:

    Smile. I completely understand. I have a hard time with CSAs too. You can get some great boxes…you just never know whats coming or how to plan! But I definitely could get behind this tomato gratin. It looks just lovely. Thank you for sharing…and thank you for all your kind words. They mean more to me than I can easily express!

  39. Hotly Spiced says:

    I feel your pain. We don’t have the CSA here in Oz but we do have people with businesses where they will deliver a box of fruit and vegetables to your door. I did this for a while but yes, it used to get me so stressed because I’d get one white zucchini and what can a family of five do with one white zucchini? And he’d always give me lebanese cucumbers. Hundreds of them. We just don’t eat a lot of cucumbers. What can you do with them besides slicing them into a salad? So in as much as the food was all good quality, I had to stop it. Coming up with ideas of how to combine hundreds of cucumbers with a single zucchini was too much for me xx

  40. Blond Duck says:

    I’m the same way. Sometimes my mom didn’t bring me the veggies she promised from the farmer’s market that I’d planned my week menu around…

    Panic much?

  41. OohLookBel says:

    I can only *dream* of finding a whole box of heirloom tomatoes. That gratin is a fabulous way of using them up.

  42. Pam says:

    I had the exact same issues when I was with a csa.

  43. Alethea says:

    I know at least one dish that I am adding to my menu plan next week! Looks fab and a great way to use all those lovely heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market!

  44. Ha ha ha ha ha! I don’t see anything wrong with taking control ;P And I want to take control of that box of tomatoes. It makes me smile just looking at it….as does this Gratin – mouthwatering!

  45. Reeni Pisano says:

    I love the taste of summer! This does look extraordinarily good! All my favorites. I wish I could plan better – usually I’m flying by the seat of my pants buying everything and anything in sight that looks good without an idea what I’m going to make.

  46. Megan says:

    Those heirlooms look beautiful! I wish I had a CSA just for tomatoes. 🙂 And that gratin looks incredibly tasty.

  47. Jeanette says:

    Beautiful gratin Joanne! I have been loving my CSA this summer. I’m not very good at menu planning, so I don’t mind the weekly surprise except for the fact that I have to supplement it sometimes. I was hoping for some leafy greens this week and got salad greens, but no Swiss chard or kale.

  48. Johanna GGG says:

    That gratin looks delicious. I haven’t really got into heirloom tomatoes as I just don’t have a regular source but I would love to. I too have CSA wariness (we don’t call it csa but it is the same thing where someone delivers it) – ours was even worse than yours – we would order something like capsicums a week ahead and they would arrive the size of a baby’s fist – honestly – it was impossible to plan! I do think perhaps I will start getting veg delivered again but worry about what will arrive – though I don’t menu plan that rigourously – I often think I will make one thing and change my mind on the day.

  49. Yasmeen says:

    What a fantastic idea! I love the addition of quinoa for protein and to make it a bit more filling. Just fantastic, my husband will loooove this one.

  50. Absolutely delicious!!! I love things like this. I don’t have CSA here in Oz, but I do love going to the markets every Wednesday. 🙂

  51. Kari says:

    I would be exactly the same. I have enough trouble doing the main grocery shop and the produce shop 1 day apart (Saturday and Sunday respectively)!

    This looks great too, by the way 🙂

  52. Guru Uru says:

    What a great idea my friend, this looks so delicious 😀

    Cheers
    CCU

  53. Lynn says:

    I know – I walked away from a vegetable stand with $20 worth of heirloom tomatoes and buyers remorse. 🙂 This gratin looks amazing.

  54. Katerina says:

    Joanne dear you as you get older you will realize that the most wonderful and awful things happen to you when you do not plan. Now the question is are you willing to take the bad along with the good ones? I try to plan as less as possible cause this makes me feel free, but this is just me. I love gratins and this one is no exception! Looks terrific!

  55. kellypea says:

    I go to the market with a list of what I’m out of. It would drive you crazy because I am also armed with only a few ideas of what if possibilities for that night’s dinner and if I’m in the mood, maybe another. It’s rebellion for years and years of being tied to schedules and plans 🙂 I love, love, love the ingredients of this and yep, can imagine that it IS what summery tomatoes should taste like. I need to squeak this out before the good tomatoes are all gone!

  56. Tandy says:

    Having Tom in the kitchen would make everything better indeed 🙂

  57. Pam says:

    You totally crack me up. I don’t menu plan at all… I go day by day to decide what I want to make which is probably why I am at the grocery store a lot. I am absolutely LOVING this gratin – it looks lovely and scrumptious!

  58. Roz says:

    I only plan meals a day or two ahead; usually going with what’s fresh in the market, on sale (and fresh!), or like you when there’s a big SCORE to be had at Trader Joe’s! And you scored with those heirlooms! This looks delis and I’ll have to pull out my Cooking Light mag to check it out too!

  59. Jessie says:

    I never knew you were so protective about your cookbooks! (And yet, somehow I am not surprised.) Peter is just the same way — he won’t let me open them all the way, so that when I’m cooking, I either have to hold it open the barest amount I can with one hand while simultaneously chopping vegetables and stirring a pot of something with the other hand (I’m still working on that part), or I need to prop it up on other cookbooks that also can’t be opened all the way. It’s a losing battle.

    Love the gratin! I’m jealous of your heirloom tomatoes — our nearest TJ’s is now 2+ hrs away. I weep just thinking about it.

  60. Saguna says:

    This gratin look like the perfect last summer hurrah for all the ripe tomatoes around at the moment! I’d love to try it.

    I sympathize with your cookbook control issues- I have book control issues too, having to organize them by Dewey decimal all day and the super fun daily struggle of organizing kids books only to see them in heaps the next afternoon. Ah, the beauty and futility of order. 🙂

  61. Erica says:

    What a delicious gratin,Joanne!I love all the delicious vegetables…..I am checking for the ingredients in my fridge….making it tonight for dinner!

  62. Those tomatoes are seriously super-model worthy! I’m so happy to see them in something as worthy as your gratin…it looks like a real party up in there!!

  63. Carolyn Jung says:

    Nothing wrong with being a control freak. LOL Especially if you can cook like THIS. 😉

  64. That Girl says:

    I feel like maybe your problem could have been solved by not shopping on a Saturday, but making your meal plans after your pick-up!

  65. Cathleen says:

    I have never heard about CSA before I read this, so I went and looked it up, and it sounds awesome! I have never meal planned in my LIFE, so it sounds like the best way to broaden my horizons. I love how educational your posts are 😉
    This looks fantastic! I have never heard of heirloom tomatoes, but I think I have found a new love. YUM!

  66. Big Dude says:

    Looks like a delicious use of fresh veggies Joanne. Having a garden is just like belonging to a CSA, except worse as I get a basket(s) full everyday to figure out how to use. So my neighbors have a free CSA.

  67. Jenna says:

    That’s exactly what terrifies me about the CSA thing. I’m a planner, too. I think I would feel like my culinary world was spiraling out of control. =)

  68. Katie says:

    How interesting! I’d never thought of that when I looked into joining a CSA. It would certainly make shopping a lot more difficult. This looks delicious. I want some baked tomatoes right now!

  69. Oh yes! I’m making this today, before the tomatoes and zucchini disappear from my backyard garden! Thanks for the inspiration.

  70. Candice says:

    This looks amaaazing. Just found your blog through foodbuzz and love it! i like the way you write.

  71. I have a bunch of tomatoes that would be perfect for this.

  72. Catherine says:

    Dear Joanne, That really looks so delicious. Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  73. haha I never thought about that aspect of getting CSA but I would feel the same way as you! It’s especially hard menu planning with only one or two people because you want to make sure everything gets eaten and that would be hard without knowing what’s coming up! I love the looks of this gratin – if I can find some good tomatoes I’m definitely making this asap!

  74. Chris says:

    Being a control freak is what kept me from signing up for a CSA. I want to be able to pick what I want.

    So you have a kitchen temper too, huh?

  75. elly says:

    I was the exact same way when we did a CSA, which is exactly why it was a 1-time thing. Well, that and because even though I love kale, I was like OMGICANNOTEATANOTHERBITEOFKALE.This gratin sounds fab.

  76. Kevin says:

    What a tasty summer veggie gratin!

  77. Oh man, I feel your pain. I struggled with the CSA too. I hated not knowing what I was going to get each week. I’ve decided I would be terrible at Top Chef. I can cook, but I like to have a plan, and I’m terrible at thinking on my feet. So no game shows or cooking competitions for me. This though? This can be added to the plan in a jiffy! Love these photos!

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