I have been battling a dreadful summer cold for nearly a week now, and the comedy of errors that was my Monday didn’t help matters at all. Rhode Island still celebrates V-J day, and because of the holiday the buses were running on a holiday schedule. There was another bus line that could get me to my train on time, but I reached the bottom of the very steep hill we live on just in time to see it whizzing by.
A sticky mile and a half later, I was at the train station, too late for my usual train but just in the nick of time to board the next commuter rail train. I arrived in Boston, trudged through the thick air to my building, and was greeted at my desk by stacks and stacks of files, all demanding my attention. I kept my head down, focused, and made a sizable dent in my backlog by the end of the day, then headed back to South Station, dreaming of home.
I’ll spare you details of the chaotic mess that my evening commute turned into, but suffice it to say that by the time I walked into the kitchen, only comfort food would do – comfort food, and the bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol rose that had been chilling for days, awaiting the day that my sense of smell and my taste buds returned to normal.
So despite the heat, I turned on the oven and got to work on this summer vegetable gratin. I built many layers of colorful vegetables – thin coins of zucchini and blue potato, ripe red tomato, shaved fennel and sliced eggplant. I spread a garlicky opal basil pesto between each layer, covered the top of my baking dish (I used a loaf pan) loosely with foil, and slid it onto a baking sheet.
After about 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven, I removed the foil and added a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, grated parmesan, and provencal herbs to the top. It went back into the oven until the topping was golden brown, then I pulled it out of the oven and let it rest briefly before slicing it up to serve. With a little arugula salad and that stunning rose, this meal was just what the doctor ordered.