Squash, that strange and versatile fruit, is a many splendored thing; the range of colors, shapes and sizes make it an aesthetically pleasing contribution to a table long after we have overloaded on its cousin, pumpkin. It brings a host of nutritional benefits with it, and can be used in a dazzlingly wide range of ways (spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti, anyone?). It can also be great food for thought… when it comes to experimenting in the kitchen.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to do just that, after being given a giant squash from a friend’s garden and challenged to make a meal out of it. Had it been smaller, I might have simply roasted or baked it, perhaps turned it into soup. Given its gigantism, however, I was tempted to make a whole meal out of it. A bit of recipe perusing later, and I found a tantalizing template– Squash gratin.
Given a few “what’s in the fridge” tweaks, and with additional cook time for the sheer volume of squash, this culinary experiment was a smashing success (so much so, in fact, that it was gobbled up in no time). Here is the altered recipe:
- 1 giant squash (roughly 4 lbs)
- 1 small turnip
- 3 sweet Italian turkey sausages
- 4 garlic cloves (peeled and crushed)
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- sea salt
- Parmesan cheese
- Peel and seed the squash, and cut into small cubes
- Peel and cube the turnip
- Preheat the oven to 450°F
- In a large casserole dish, slice the sausage open and cook for 5 minutes
- Remove the dish, and cut the sausage into small pieces
- Add the garlic, rosemary, squash, and a few pinches of salt
- Cover with parchment paper and cook for 40 minutes
- Lower oven temperature to 350°F
- Remove parchment paper, cook for an additional 30 minutes
- Remove dish from oven, mash the squash with a fork and stir the ingredients
- Shave your parmesan with a vegetable peeler, enough to cover the top of your dish
- Turn on the broiler; place your cheese-topped dish back in the oven for 2-4 minutes to brown the top
- Remove and serve
Notes on preparation:
- Though Winter squash can prove somewhat more intimidating than the thinner-skinned summer varietals, the preparation is decidedly more memorable; peeling, seeding and chopping this Jurassic-looking plant felt like both a throwback to an earlier time and an accomplishment. Remember, peelers are your friend, and sharp knives make all the difference.
- It may take longer to cook than anticipated, so snack accordingly
- If you have friends or family in the house while you cook, they will pester you to hurry up as the smells coming from the oven are drool-worthy
So the next time you see an unlikely looking gourd at the farmers market, the grocery store, or arriving in your CSA box, get excited- it’s time to get experimental with it.