This recipe is from The Greens Cookbook, by Deborah Madison (with Edward Espy Brown, author of another of my old-time favorite cookbooks, The Tassajara Bread Book). Madison is the founding chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. The link above takes you to a 2001 edition of her book; I bought mine, the original 1987 edition, at a used book sale because I was going nuts trying to find yummy food to serve vegetarian friends. It has served me well. Here is her recipe for Winter Squash Gratin. I used half the Mystery Pumpkin one night when some friends came over for dinner. I expected to have leftovers; there weren’t any! I also neglected to take a photo.
2 Tbl olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teas. dried thyme, or 4 to 6 thyme branches
1 bay leaf
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 teas. cayenne pepper or 1/2 teas. paprika (I forgot this and it was still good)
1 lb. tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
Sugar, if necessary (she says – I say NO)
1 winter squash or mystery pumpkin weighing 2.5 – 3 lbs.
Oil for frying (I used olive oil)
4 ounces Fontina or Gruyere cheese, sliced or grated (I grated, slicing is easier)
Fresh herbs: parsley, marjoram, thyme, finely chopped
Heat the olive oil and add the onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and a little salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft; then add the wine and let it reduce by half. Add the cayenne or paprika (unless you forget) and the tomatoes. Cook slowly for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick. (I don’t know if it was because I was using small end-of-season tomatoes, but my sauce was quite thick after only 10 minutes.) Taste, add a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are tart (no!), and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare the squash. Cut it open, scoop out the seeds and strings, and then, with the flat cut surface resting on the counter, shave off the skin. (Butternut squash can be easily peeled with a vegetable peeler before it is cut in half. Mystery pumpkin cannot.) Another method is to cut the squash or pumpkin into manageable slices and then peel. I cut wedges along the indentations of the pumpkin.
Slice the peeled squash into large pieces about 3 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. Heat enough oil to generously coat the bottom of a large skillet, and fry the squash on both sides, so that it is browned and just tender. Remove it to some toweling to drain, then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. To form the gratin, put a few spoonfuls of the tomato sauce on the bottom of individual gratin dishes, or use it all to cover the bottom of one large dish (what I did.). Lay the squash on top in overlapping layers with slices of the cheese or spoons of grated cheese interspersed between the layers. Bake until the cheese is melted and the gratin is hot, about 15 minutes, and serve with the fresh herbs scattered over the surface.
serves 4 to 6
Thank you Deborah Madison, and Buon Appetito!