Dig #2 revealed a bag of chopped acorn squash and turnips. I’m sure I did something simple with the original used quantity of these wintry vegetables, like roasting with olive oil. That seemed a little too January for a hot June day, so I opted to find a twist. I followed the adage when in doubt, add cheese. Hence, the gratin — which turned out quite nicely, I think. It was served aside baked herbed chicken and sautéed green beans.
I sourced several recipes to pull this together, and I’m not completely sure that what I ended up with was a true gratin; the sources varied quite a bit. Joy of Cooking describes a gratin as simply covering a dish with breadcrumbs or cheese and letting it brown under a broiler. But many of the recipes included a milk/cheese/egg mixture that was poured over, with no breadcrumbs at all, suggesting something more quiche-like. Either way, your adding a crunchy crumb topping or cheese, and with those it’s hard to go wrong. I found that fresh herbs go a long way in making something simple go from simply boring to simply lovely; so if you don’t grow any, I encourage you to start with some parsley (my favorite variety is Italian, or flat-leaf), thyme and basil, and see how far they get you on a night when dinner is an experiment.
Winter squash and turnip gratin
- about 4 cups peeled and chopped (appx. 1″ pieces) winter squash and turnips
(you could do this with all squash, but I wouldn’t do it with all turnip, since they are so strong)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
- 1 tsp minced fresh sage (or a pinch of dried sage)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup milk (2% or whole)
- 1 oz. parmesan, grated (about 1/4 cup — don’t use the powdered kind)
Preheat oven to 425º (on a hot day, you’ll appreciate a countertop convection oven for recipes like this). Place squash and turnip pieces in an 8×8″ (or smaller — as long as they fit) baking dish, and drizzle with 1 Tbsp of the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, toss to coat, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the pieces are tender. Remove from the oven (this can be done ahead, and refrigerated until ready to finish).
Meanwhile, heat another Tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sautée the onion until tender but not brown, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the parsley, sage, and cooked squash/turnip mixture (keep your original baking dish handy; no need to wash it), and stir to mix well. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and milk with 1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Pour the squash/turnip mixture back into your baking dish, and pour the egg mixture on top. Top with grated parmesan, return to the oven, and bake another 15-20 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the eggs are set. Serve warm.