Ask anyone to name a dish involving unripened tomatoes and you’ll most likely hear, “fried green tomatoes”. While those are popular and delicious, I knew there had to be something else I could do with them when they showed up in this month’s Farmers’ Feast challenge basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. I hit upon the idea of using them as a base for a vegetable casserole with a cheesy, crunchy topping. It’s also a great way to showcase freshly shelled beans, and any number of varieties would work, including Romano, Cranberry and more. Plus, the garlicky sauce will help to hide the beans if you’re dealing with picky eaters (you can even mash the cooked beans into the sauce if you want to get really sneaky)! I like to make gratins in individual serving dishes as they are so easy and pretty to serve. If you want to make a vegan version of this recipe, use olive or canola oil in place of the butter (or a non-dairy butter substitute) and use water, wine or non-dairy milk substitute for the sauce.
- 1 cup shelled Romano beans
- 3 green tomatoes, sliced as thinly as possible
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced onion
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced celery
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced carrot
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) fresh sage leaves, minced (or 1 teaspoon / 5 mL dried sage)
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (185 mL) milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup (250 mL) Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter, melted
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) grated Parmesan
- Put beans in a medium pot and add enough cold water to cover by an inch (2.5 cm). Cover pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, until tender.
- While beans are cooking, lay tomato slices out in a single layer on a plate (or two) and sprinkle the 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt evenly over top. This will draw excess moisture out of the tomatoes.
- In a medium frying pan, melt butter. Add onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 – 7 minutes more, until all vegetables are softened.
- Sprinkle flour over cooked vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.
- Slowly add milk, stirring constantly, until a smooth sauce forms. Cook for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
- When beans are cooked, drain them thoroughly and set aside.
- Butter the insides of four oven-safe dishes, approximately 1 ½ cup / 375 mL size.
- Lay tomato slices on paper towel to remove moisture and excess salt; press gently on the tops of the slices with paper towel. Arrange the tomatoes on the bottom of each dish, overlapping the slices.
- Divide beans evenly among the four dishes.
- Divide sauce evenly among the four dishes.
- Combine the panko and melted butter in a medium bowl. Add parmesan and toss to combine.
- Divide panko topping evenly among the four dishes. At this point, the dishes can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 48 hours.
- Just before serving, preheat oven to 350 F.
- Bake the gratins in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes, until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 2 – 3 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 servings.