Winter Squash Gratin: A Cold Weather Favorite
Winter Squash Gratin: A Cold Weather Favorite

 

I love winter squash. I can't seem to get enough of it, be it in a soup, saute or gratin. Winter squash is usually orange-fleshed and has a velvety texture. A dish from Greens restaurant in San Francisco is the inspiration for this vegetarian casserole. Greens specializes in all dishes vegetarian and is definitely worth a visit.

I have made many versions of this dish. I used to make it by first sauteing the squash in olive oil. Now I steam the squash to eliminate extra oil, and it actually tastes better. The combination of the sweet, creamy-textured squash along with the tomato and leek topping and melted cheese finish is a family favorite. You can use any cheese you like. My favorites here are nutty Swiss, mild Monterey Jack or extra-sharp Cheddar.

If you want to make this in a hurry, pick up pre-cut butternut squash and use a total of 2 pounds. Don't worry if the squash is diced rather than sliced; either way works. I also like to use the diced fire-roasted tomatoes for a slightly smoky flavor. Serve this with a simple grilled entree or as a substantial vegetarian main dish. If you have any left over, you can make soup by pureeing it with some chicken or vegetable broth

Butternut Squash Gratin with Tomato Fondue

Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds butternut or other winter squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and finely chopped

4 cups diced, drained canned tomatoes (I prefer fire-roasted)

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil or 1/2 tablespoon dried

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 pound sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)

1. Carefully cut the peel from the squash, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and cut the flesh into 1-inch slices; or use the pre-cut squash. Put 2 inches of water in the bottom of a large steamer and bring to a boil. Using tongs, carefully place the squash slices in the steamer, cover, and steam over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until fork-tender. Transfer the squash to an oiled 9- by 12-inch oval gratin dish.

2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the oil; add the leeks and saute for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook them over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add the basil and thyme and cook until the sauce is quite thick, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.

3. Spoon the tomato mixture over squash and then sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is lightly brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Advance Preparation:

Can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead through step 3, covered, and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

 

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Winter Squash Gratin: A Cold Weather Favorite

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