Squash: “ The fruits of various members of the gourd family, which fall into two classifications, winter squash and summer squash”

Both summer and winter squash are great “go to” vegetables as there are so many varieties. Every part of the plant can be eaten over the course of the growing season from young leaves, tender shoots and, of course, the squash blossom to the baby squash and mature fruit. The terms “summer” and “winter” are misleading as they really apply to how long you can store, not availability… winter squashes keep longer in storage, thus are more a cold weather food. There are many varieties of winter squash to be found. We all know the pumpkin and the various expressions it can take in October and then again as pie in November, but this would be the blandest of the eatable gourds. A couple of very common and tastier winter squash would be the acorn and the butternut. Lately a few other interesting ones have been popping up in the produce section of many stores. If you are lucky enough to have a farmers market or grocer who carries some more obscure varieties, I highly recommend sampling. Check out whatscookingamerica.net/squash for descriptions of some wonderful winter squashes. Some of my favorite ways to cook this colorful addition to the winter food palate are roasted with maple and herbs, pureed into a warming soup or stuffed with rice, nuts and some cheese. A new favorite is this rich gratin with parmesan and swiss chard….

Butternut Squash Gratin w/ Swiss Chard and Parmesan
1 large Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and sliced 1/4 inch slices
1 large bunch Swiss Chard, washed and roughly chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground Pepper
1/8 cup All Purpose Flour
1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
optional: 2 teaspoons fresh herbs such as Thyme or Rosemary

Heat oven to 375 degrees

In a large bowl, toss squash w/ flour, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and the optional herbs to coat. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sautee pan, over mediun-high heat, and add the swiss chard. Sautee until wilted and add the minced garlic. Sautee 1 minute and set aside.

Oil the bottom of a 9×13 pyrex or stoneware baking dish with the remaining oil. Spread chard over bottom of the dish. Layer the squash on top, over lapping to make nice presentation. Pour cream over the vegetables, cover with foil and bake until bubbly. Remove from oven, uncover and top with parmesan. Return to the oven to brown the top. Serve.

Variation: If you do not want to use the cream, Chicken or Vegetable Stock make a lighter but still yummy Gratin!