Winter Squash Gratin
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- sugar, if necessary
- 1 butternut winter squash, weighing 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
- 4 ounces Fontina or Gruyere cheese, sliced
- Freshly chopped parsley
Adapted from The Greens Cookbook by D. Madison and E. Brown
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 and the tomatoes. Cook slowly for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick. Taste, add a pinch of sugar if the tomatoes are tart, and season with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.
While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare the squash. Cut it open, scoop our the seeds and strings, and then, with the flat cut surface resting on the counter, shave off the skin. (The butternut can easily be peeled with a vegetable peeler before it is cut in half. Another method is to cut the squash into pieces and then remove the skin from each piece. This takes more time, but you may find it easier.
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 degrees. 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. Lay the squash on top in overlapping layers with slices of the cheese interspersed between th layers. Bake until the cheese is melted and the gratin is hot, about 15 minutes, and serve with the fresh parsley scattered over the surface.