Friday, September 17, 2010

Cucuzza Squash Gratin with Garlicky Bechamel Sauce

I finally cooked that monster cucuzza squash, and I even surprised myself by not throwing it on the grill! Grilling is always a delicious, easy option (and I'll be honest, I still saved half the squash for grilling!), but for the sake of doing something a bit different and creative, I knew I had to vary it up.

I can't say I can give you precise proportions with this recipe- I had a squash that was probably over a foot and a half long (as I write this, I realize I should've measured it!), and you might have a cucuzza that is two feet long, or three feet long; you might also decide to use a larger baking pan, whereas I opted for a pie plate. Using more squash would require more bechamel sauce, so you'll need to size up your squash and adjust the recipe accordingly.

That all being said, I really enjoy gratins in the fall- you can use the wonderful end-of-summer produce still available at your local market, and you can also start breaking in your oven again for the upcoming cooler months. And everyone clamors for that crispy topping- use a vegan parmesan and breadcrumbs, and you're in business!

The Whats:

* 1/2 a large cucuzza squash, cut into medium-thick slices
* 1/2 cup vegan parmesan
* 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

For the garlicky bechamel sauce:
* 4 tbsp. soy butter
* 4 cloves garlic, crushed
* 1/4 cup all purpose flour
* 2 cups soy milk, at room temperature
* 1 bay leaf
* pinch of nutmeg
* 1/4 tsp. black pepper
* 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (optional)

The Hows:

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-high heat until foaming. Add garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk flour into the butter-garlic mixture and cook for one minute.  Reduce heat to medium-low. Add bay leaf and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until sauce just thickens. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf and stir in nutmeg, pepper, and garlic powder for extra garlic flavor, if desired. Set aside.

2) Spread 1/3 cup bechamel sauce on the bottom of a ten inch glass pie dish. Layer cucuzza slices in pie dish, 1 slice deep; cover with bechamel sauce and repeat layering until dish is filled. Sprinkle parmesan and breadcrumbs over the top layer; garnish with parsley or additional black pepper if desired.

3) Bake squash for 15 minutes. Set oven to broil, and broil squash for about 4 minutes, or until top layer is browned and crisp. Remove from oven and allow gratin to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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