Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Gratin

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Week Four: Memories and Traditions

Memories and traditions! An appropriate theme this week. Today I bring you a recipe that’s not quite a tradition, but does hearken back to a dish my family served pretty frequently at holidays: scalloped potatoes. But this version features squash instead of potatoes, and a creamy cashew-based sauce instead of cheese.

Sometimes I think that squash varieties don’t quite match their names. With gorgeous, ethereal names like butternut, delicata, and pattypan, you expect something light and, well, delicate. Instead, you get an oddly thick, bulbous, often warty fruit that is decidedly not delicate. But it’s what’s inside that counts, and squashes lend themselves so well to dozens of applications.

Creamy vegan butternut squash gratin //

This savory butternut squash recipe would not be out of place doubled and served as a side for Thanksgiving dinner. Roasting squash brings out its inherent sweetness, and seasonal herbs (sage, thyme) add a complementary savory note. A beautifully simple yet complexly flavorful cashew cream sauce elevates the dish, and a sprinkling of toasted panko adds just a little crunch. Thanks to the coconut milk and cashews in the sauce, this dish is surprisingly filling and nutrient-rich; you might be surprised that you’re full after a small helping! Eat straight out of the oven for optimal deliciousness.

Creamy Butternut Squash Gratin

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish

For the squash

1 butternut squash
5-7 fresh sage leaves, rolled and sliced into ribbons
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
fresh black pepper
1.5 – 2 T olive oil (start with less and add more if needed for a larger squash)
2-3 T panko

For the cashew cream sauce

1/2 cup whole raw cashews, either soaked for 6 hours ahead of time or boiled for 15 minutes
1/3 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 large clove garlic
2 T nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)


Preheat the oven to 400˚F.

Using a sharp knife, cut each end off the squash, then cut it half both vertically and horizontally. Stand each piece on end and use your knife to cut off the peel, then scoop out the seeds with a fork. Slice the squash into half-moon shapes about 3/4″ thick.

Combine the olive oil, sliced sage, thyme, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper to a large mixing bowl, then add the squash slices. Stir to coat evenly, then add the squash to a 9 x 13″ glass casserole dish.

Bake for 20 minutes while you prepare the cream sauce.

Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend/process until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. It will be fairly thin — that’s okay. Taste and adjust for salt. Set cream aside while the squash bakes.

At the 20 minutes mark, use a fork to check whether the squash is done. You want it just about tender. Remove from the oven and pour the sauce over the squash; aim to drizzle it and don’t worry about coating each piece.

Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes until the sauce thickens and starts to bubble. Remove it from the oven and sprinkle the panko on top; you want a nice layer. Broil the casserole for 2-3 minutes and remove just as the panko begins to turn golden brown.

Let sit for about 3 minutes, then serve.


Retro Recipe: Mustard!

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Day 9: Most retro recipe.

During my senior year of high school, we celebrated Spirit Week, with days where seniors were encouraged to dress in various costumes. One theme was ’80s Day. My silly friends and I always had to be just a little different (read: weird), and decided that since the administration hadn’t specified WHICH ’80s they meant, it was open to interpretation. So when the rest of the senior class showed up to school in leggings and neon with teased hair, we were in silver and black and shiny things… because we were from the 2080s. We thought we were oh so clever.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Today’s prompt — Most Retro Recipe — got me thinking. Just how retro could I go?! Then last night, I came across this Food52 article about the history of mustard and immediately knew just how retro I would go. Guess when the first written recipe for mustard appeared? Not the 1500s or 1600s, as Steven and our friend Lara guessed when I posed the question. Nope, you have to go all the way back to 42 AD! Doesn’t that just blow your mind?! After learning just how retro mustard is, I went down a Google rabbit hole of mustard research and only surfaced for air to share some truly amazing mustard-inspired scribblings with Steven and Lara, such as this poem-recipe for mustard:

For lumbardus mustard
Take mustarde and let hit drye
Anonyn, Sir, wyturlye;
Stomper hit in a morter fyne,
And fars hit thurghe a clothe of lyne;
Do wyne therto and venegur gode,
Sturm hom wele togeder for the rode,
And make hit thyke inowghe thenne,
Whenne thou hit spendes byfore gode menne,
And make hit thynne with wyne, I say,
With diverse metes thou serve hit may.

— from Liber cure Cocorum, c. 1480

Be still, my Middle-English-loving heart! This cookbook written in verse is now my new favorite thing, and I want to cook everything from it.

But one thing at a time! Further research into historical mustard-making techniques revealed that ancient Roman mustard usually contained other nuts ground up with the mustard seeds, and that black mustard seeds were more commonly used than yellow. Intrigued, I decided to tweak the recipe a bit to come up with my own not-so-ancient Roman mustard… because the ancient Romans certainly didn’t have food processors.

Ancient Roman-Inspired Mustard
Makes way too much mustard

  • 1/2 cup black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • Scant 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the mustard seeds for about a minute. They should remain mostly whole. I had to grind the seeds in batches because they didn’t all fit in my mortar.

Add the ground seeds to a food processor, along with the pine nuts. Process for about thirty seconds, then add the remaining ingredients and process into a paste.

Transfer to a jar and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.

Roman Mustard

As you can see, this mustard looks… well, different from regular ol’ mustard! It hasn’t rested its full 24 hours yet, so I haven’t tried it in its final form. I’ll be sure to report back. ;)