The Tragic (and Tasty) Tale of Butternut Squash

27 Aug

Yes, I draw on my squash.

For days, the butternut squash had watched warily from the kitchen counter as one by one, the other vegetables met tragic ends. The stress finally felled one of them, but the other three held out hope.

Perhaps they were just seasonal decor, the oldest whispered. This family, after all, had frozen pizza and chicken nuggets at the ready. Six fast-food restaurants within a half-mile. Surely they would be spared the fate of “the others.”


I saw this recipe for butternut squash gratin on Better Homes and Gardens, and it was batter up for the butternut.

You might like the original, but I made pretty significant changes, so here’s my version:

Butternut Squash Gratin with Spinach and Field Greens

  • About 2 pounds  butternut squash
  • 1 Tablespoon  olive oil
  •  salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 12-ounce bag frozen spinach, or 16 cups fresh
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Peel the butternut squash, scoop out the seeds and pulpy bits, and slice it into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Aside: I used my mandolin for this, and it made the squash into little smiley face shapes. Also, I started trying to peel the squash with a paring knife because I thought their skin might be too thick, but I switched halfway through to a vegetable peeler and that worked perfectly and did not waste any squashy goodness. You might want to wear gloves when you do this. Butternut squash has an enzyme in it like pumpkin that they use in some fancy facials. But if you have sensitive skin, it might also make your hands itchy. My friend Bethany had a tragic incident with a butternut in which her thumb swelled up it didn’t look like a thumb anymore but another bodily appendage. AHEM. And we made a lot of jokes about it because I belong to a mean-girl gang. Take that as a cautionary tale.
After you slice up the squash, toss it in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper, then spread it on a greased baking sheet. Bake it for 10-15 minutes until it’s tender but not squishy. When you take it out, turn the oven up to 475.
While the squash is in the oven, deal with the spinach. If it’s frozen, microwave until thawed and then squeeze out the excess water. I also at this point minced up some “assorted field greens” that came in my Greenling box. I have no idea what they were. Hopefully they were all legal. Some of them tasted kind of peppery, and I thought they would be a good foil to the sweetness of the squash.

Hello, mystery greens. I hope you aren't anything that would make me fail a drug test.

In a small saucepan, mix the cold milk and the cornstarch and nutmeg. Please don’t try to add the cornstarch to warm milk because that will produce lumpopalooza. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture gets bubbly and starts to thicken. Then, mix this mixture into the spinach and spread it in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole pan.

Arrange the squash pieces over the spinach bed.

Then, stir together the yogurt and parmesan cheese, and pour that over the top. Bake at 475 for about 10 more minutes, until bubbly and nicely browned.

It’s hard to get a good picture of casseroley things, but it is really a pretty dish with the green and orange colors.

So delicious. And apparently, even healthy. Go figure.

Final verdict: Three of the four people in our house liked this. One ate his sad little peanut-butter sandwich after tasting the requisite three bites, because mama is not a short-order cook, y’all. Hearty enough for a main dish, definitely one for my “make again” files.


7 Responses to “The Tragic (and Tasty) Tale of Butternut Squash”

  1. Elle August 27, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

    Oh my gosh, that looks fantastic! I need to make this.

    The thumb? The thumb. Freaking hilarious. I will never forget the damn thumb. LMAO.

    • lettergirl August 27, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

      Elle, it is SO delicious. Forget the “make your own creme fraiche” in the original recipe, lol. I also got to laughing thinking about that picture of the baked butternut squash sliced in half that turned out semi-pornographic. Good times.

  2. Bethany August 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    You wont forget it because it was your recipe that almost made my thumb grow balls!!! Oh, and I LOVE the picture! 😛

  3. *Just Fran* August 28, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    This sounds wonderful. Love the spinach and squash combo. In case you need other butternut squash ideas, is excellent. And, this is on my to-try list:

  4. Barbara McNeely August 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Dawn – this sounds delicious. On my list to try soon.

  5. Corrin August 30, 2011 at 8:44 pm #

    You’re a stitch. xo

  6. sherrycarrsmith August 30, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    I may have to try this. You know, when the weather isn’t hot enough to bake it outside. And if all of your cooking contains such imagery, I think you should write a cook book.

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