butternut squash gratin with cashew cream and kale pesto

butternut squash gratin with cashew cream and kale pesto

There is magic in the mundane; in a few homely and haphazard ingredients building on each other to become something comforting and delicious, in the smallest gesture of kindness from a friend, in stupid stories swapped over full plates on a rainy Friday eve. This dish was an impromptu improvisation that came to me recently while peering into my fridge, trying to decide what to serve guests for dinner the following day. The newfound chill in the air had me craving something warm and comforting, unpretentious, and with a taste of seasonal transition. And out of that moment came this gratin. It is at once familiar yet entirely unexpected, nourishing to it’s core, and is a perfect make-ahead dish for company (even your vegan friends!). Make it for those who lift you up–a simple gesture of gratitude and love in a world that can often be so cold.

For the cashew cream:
• 1 heaping cup (156 grams) raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 8 hours
• 3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
• 1 fat clove of garlic
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• black pepper to taste
• 1/3 cup water

For the kale pesto:
• 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
• 2 large kale leaves, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
• 1/3 cup olive oil
• 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
• 1-2 fat garlic cloves
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

For the gratin:
• 2 medium-large butternut squash
• Olive oil for greasing
• 1 tbsp. maple syrup
• 1/3 cup finely chopped nuts of choice (I used raw pecans and pistachios)
• Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400° F. Peel and halve the butternut squashes, and very thinly slice the fat part of the squash into half circles, reserving the bottom portion with the seeds for another use. Spread squash on 2 large baking sheets, coat very lightly in olive oil, salt delicately, and roast in the preheated oven 15–20 minutes just until the pieces are soft and pliable.

Meanwhile, make the cashew cream. Drain the soaked cashews, and add them to a high speed blender or food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend on high speed until mixture comes together to form a smooth thick creamy delicious sauce. Pour the cashew cream into a small bowl and set aside while you make the pesto.

In the same blender or processor (no need to clean it, yay!), blend all of the pesto ingredients until smooth. Set aside. 

Remove squash from oven and allow to cool slightly. Lightly grease a 9" pie plate or casserole dish with oil, and in an artful fashion, place an even layer of squash pieces in the bottom of the dish. Spoon on 1/4 of the cashew cream, and spread gently to cover the squash layer. Dollop on a few spoonfuls of pesto, and swirl into the cashew cream. Repeat these layers, 3-4 times more, ending with a top layer of pesto and cashew cream. You may have some pesto leftover. Don't toss it! Spoon it on scrambled eggs or roasted potatoes!

Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top of the last pesto-cashew cream layer, then drizzle the maple syrup evenly over the top. Add an additional sprinkle or two of salt to taste. At this point you can cover the dish and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. 

If you plan to serve immediately, decrease the oven temperature to 350° F, and bake the gratin for 30-40 minutes, or until the nuts get nice and toasty and the edges of the squash start to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit before slicing and serving. Mmmm. 

 

sesame sumac sweets

sesame sumac sweets

cowboy cookies

cowboy cookies