Summer is loosening its grip here in central Israel, although we’re still walking around in short sleeves and sandals. But it’s a kindlier sun than the scorching tyrant that dried everyone out earlier in the year, and it gives way early to cool nights. My thoughts turn to new baking projects, as they always do at this time of year.
Now that I’m counting up all the ways that early October feels different, I remember my latest walk through the shuk. Vegetables that earlier shrank and got buggy seem relieved by the slightly cooler weather. Celery stalks are getting fat and juicy again. Broccoli and cauliflower heads, which weren’t worth a glance a little while ago, are clean, full and firm. And the mellow colors of squashes on display speak to me of dinners based on baked and roasted vegetables, glasses of red wine traded for summer’s Chardonnays, and full-flavored hard cheeses.
While I love the butternut squash stuffed with quinoa, I had a longing for butternut squash paired with a tangy hard cheese. This recipe satisfied that longing perfectly. The sweetness of the butternut combines deliciously with herbs, and while its baking, a thin, savory, cheese crust forms over all of it. Just right.
Butternut Squash Gratin
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1″ chunks
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into chunks a little larger than the squash
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crumbled, dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment, or butter it well.
Put flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
Roll the vegetables around in the seasoned flour. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to pick the pieces up . Shake excess flour off. Spread them around the baking sheet.
Sprinkle the Parmesan over the vegetables.
In a separate small bowl, mix the garlic and oil. Drizzle the garlicky oil over the vegetables.
Bake for 30-40 minutes.
If you love autumn and autumn’s vegetables, you’re going to love this.