Winter is squash season. One of my favorites is butternut squash. It has a slightly sweet flavor and the texture is firm, not mealy or watery. It’s also a bargain this time of year. Added bonus: it keeps for at least a month in a cool spot in your kitchen.
Here’s a gratin that uses no dairy at all. No cheese. No milk or cream. Concentrated flavor comes from leeks, raisins, garlic, parsley, and lemon zest.
Leeks are a delicious member of the onion family. They are milder than yellow onions and are more tender when sautéed. Leeks often hide grit and dirt in their outer layers. To make sure you get them clean, cut them lengthwise from the dark green leaves to the root end, but not quite all the way through so the two halves remain attached. Rinse well under cold water, making sure to separate the layers to flush out the dirt. To slice, cut off the roots and finish the lengthwise cut to separate the two halves. Then slice crosswise thinly.
Butternut Squash Gratin with raisins and leeks
1/4 cup raisins
1 butternut squash, 1 1/2 – 2 pounds
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
zest of 1 large lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs, about 4 slices of bread (see Note)
Cover raisins with hot water in a small bowl and set aside to plump up for 10 minutes.
Cut top and bottom off squash. Peel and cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Slice 1/4″ thick crosswise.
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Coat a shallow large gratin dish (a 12″ quiche dish works well) with non-stick cooking spray.
Drain raisins and pat dry. Chop raisins and combine with parsley, lemon zest, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil. Sauté leeks until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
To construct the gratin, layer 1/2 the squash slices in the bottom of the gratin dish. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the leeks over the squash. Spread 1/2 the raisin mixture over leeks. Drizzle lightly with about 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil. Layer on remaining squash slices. Season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, until squash is tender and is easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
Combine breadcrumbs with the rest of the raisin mixture and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Spread breadcrumbs evenly over the top of the gratin. Return to the oven, uncovered. Bake for 15 minutes until top is golden.
Note: To make fresh breadcrumbs, cut off crusts, cut bread into small cubes and pulse in a food processor until crumbs.
Photo: Dinkum [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons