After apple picking in a neighborhood orchard, a group of Deer-Isle home-schooled children and their families visited me one morning at Rabbit Hill. The energetic bunch, whose ages ranged from a toddler to several third graders, was here to feed the rabbits and taste some Maine apples.
I love entertaining young folks because their minds are sponges, sopping up new ideas and experiences. An invitation to feed the rabbits becomes a lesson on the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Patting the rabbits later translates into a lesson on hand washing and sanitation. And tasting different apple varieties and voting for your favorite encourages enjoying new foods while exciting the palate.
One mother was enjoying my collection of apple books, savoring a recipe for Squash & Apple Gratin in “The Apple Lover’s Cookbook.” Written by Amy Traverso, senior food editor at Yankee magazine, this is a beautifully written and illustrated book with dozens of creative recipes.
The combination of baking apples and squash together intrigued me. Amy described this as a “hearty dish substantial enough to serve as a vegetarian main course …. sweetness with a crumbly top of garlicky breadcrumbs.”
Amy’s recipe was very detailed, involving several separate steps. This adaptation is the “condensed” version. I enjoyed Squash and Apple Gratin for supper with spinach salad. The next day, packed in a glass jar, it was a flavorsome and filling lunch. Reheated for dinner, the casserole was the perfect match for a grilled burger over ripe tomato slices.
Be like my students. Try this recipe. I know you’ll love it.
SQUASH & APPLE GRATIN
- 1 medium butternut squash peeled & cubed (about 2 cups), 1 ½ pounds
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons cider or apple juice
- 3 ounces grated cheese: Gruyere Swiss or mild cheddar (about 1 cup, firmly packed)
- 1 teaspoon Sea salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh pepper
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 2 apples peeled & cubed
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- Sea salt and fresh pepper
- 1-¼ cups bread crumbs
- 3 tablespoons Melted butter
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 garlic clove finely minced
- Butter a 2-quart gratin or casserole dish or an 8-inch square baking dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cream and cider. Add the cubed squash, grated cheese, 1-teaspoon sea salt and fresh pepper. Toss well to mix. Pour the mixture into the buttered pan.
- Using the same bowl, add the chopped onion, cubed apple and chopped fresh rosemary. Season with sea salt and fresh pepper and mix well. Pour over the squash.
- Combine the crumbs with the minced garlic, nutmeg and melted butter. Sprinkle over the squash and apples. Bake until the squash and apples are tender and the top is golden brown, about 30 – 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.