Meatless Monday – Butternut Squash, Leek & Apple Gratin

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Butternut squash, leeks and apples baked under a savory crust of sharp cheddar, parmesan and buttery breadcrumbs. Need I say more?  This is a lovely dish which fills your home with a wonderful, homey, spent all day (not) in the kitchen smell. There is a reason butternut squash is the most popular  hard winter squash. It has a sweet, buttery flavor (hence the name) that enhances soups and casseroles or can be a showstopper all on it’s own. It’s skin is fairly thin but hard which helps preserve the interior of the squash and prolong it’s shelf life. The squash’s seed cavity is relatively small so the yield of the edible portion is pretty high.   It’s gorgeous brilliant orange color is from Beta carotene which gets converted to vitamin A by our bodies. Butternut Squash provides many other nutrients  including vitamin C, potassium, calcium and fiber.

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I love a meal that requires little clean up, in other words, doesn’t use every pot and pan you have in the kitchen.  This gratin can be made as a one pot meal if you have a large cast iron pan that can go from stovetop to oven. Just keep adding each step to the same pan.  Otherwise, saute the leeks first and deglaze the pan with wine and vegetable broth, then combine with apples and squash in baking dish. Either way it’s a pretty easy dish to make.  This could be just what your Thanksgiving table needs!

TIPS:  If you have any leftover, dried bread, it’s easy to make your own bread crumbs.  The better the bread, the more delicious the dish.  I used two day old ciabatta that was stored in a paper bag.

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If the bread is completely dry, slice into small pieces and whirl in your food processor or finely chop with a heavy knife.

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If the bread is still slightly soft, slice and toast in the oven to dry it out, then chop or grind into coarse bread crumbs.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH, LEEK AND APPLE GRATIN

Topping:
2 Tbsn butter, melted
1 cup coarse dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/2 tsp dried
salt and pepper to taste

Filling:
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tbsn butter
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 leeks
1/3 cup white wine
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsn all purpose flour
1 apple
1 medium butternut squash (or 3-4 cups sliced or chopped)
1/2 shredded parmesan

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  •  To prepare topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

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  • Cut ends off of leeks and slice lengthwise.  Rinse under running water, fanning the layers like a deck of cards to remove any remaining grit, then coarsely chop.

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  •  Saute leeks in butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes.

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  • Add garlic, thyme, wine and broth and reduce liquid by half.

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  • Thinly slice apple.

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  • Cut squash in half, remove seeds, peel and slice crosswise.

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  • In the baking dish, fold in squash, apple, parmesan, flour and leek mixture. (For an even distribution you can sprinkle the squash with the flour before folding). Add salt and pepper if necessary. Veggies should not be dry. Add a bit more broth if necessary.

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  • Spread the topping evenly to cover and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden brown.  If the top is browning too fast, cover with aluminum foil.

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  • Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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Butternut Squash, Leek and Apple Gratin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 

Butternut Squash Gratin15

 

Topping:
2 Tbsn butter, melted
1 cup coarse dry breadcrumb
1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Shredded parmesan
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Filling:
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Tbsn butter
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 leeks
1/3 cup white wine
2 tsp fresh thype (or 1 tsp dried)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsn all purpose flour
1 apple
1 medium butternut squash (or 3-4 cups sliced or chopped)
1/2 shredded parmesan

  • To prepare topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • Cut ends off of leeks and slice lengthwise.  Rinse under running water, fanning the layers like a deck of cards to remove any remaining grit, then coarsely chop. Saute leeks in butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, wine and broth and reduce liquid by half.
  • Thinly slice apple.
  • Cut squash in half, remove seeds, peel and slice crosswise.
  • In the baking dish, combine squash, apple, parmesan, flour and leek mixture.  (For an even distribution you can sprinkle the squash with the flour before folding).  Add salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Spread the topping evenly to cover and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the top is golden brown.  If you find your topping is browning to fast, cover the dish with some aluminum foil.
  • Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Apple Honey Challah

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Happy 5775!  Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is next week! What is Rosh Hashanah?  Rosh Hashanah, literally“Head of the Year“, is observed on the first day of the Jewish year which is based on the Hebrew Calendar rather than the Gregorian or Western Calendar (which is the calendar we use every day). Unlike the Western New Year which is a big celebration, Rosh Hashanah is more a time for reflection and introspection, forgiveness and hope.   As is true with all Jewish holidays, there is a great emphasis on food.

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During Rosh Hashanah, a round challah is usually served, symbolizing the circle of life and the cyclical nature of the year – the completion of the old year and the beginning of the new year. Apples dipped in honey are also traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashana, symbolizing wishes for a sweet new year. First you dip the challah in the honey and then the apple.  It’s a delicious little slice of heaven! I also love the challah slathered in butter AND dripping with honey.  Delish!

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I have been making a braided challah for many years and have only tried making a round challah with apples and honey once, with less than stellar success.  The apples were too wet and the dough turned into a sticky mess.  Undaunted, I decided to try again, because who can resist putting all three yummy Rosh Hashanah foods together into one delicious dish?  I decided to attempt the braiding instructions by food personality and blogger Tori Avey who not only provides numbered braiding instructions but step by step instructions for making dough from scratch.   I opted to use my handy bread machine to make the dough and then followed the braiding instructions.   I adapted my recipe for a bread maker, so check out Tori Avey for  info on making the dough by hand. The result was quite wonderful! The apples and cinnamon add a touch of yummy sweetness inside.  I used Pink Lady Apples from my garden but you can use pretty much any variety you like.  Granny Smith and Pippin are particularly good for cooking.   The braiding looks intimidating but is actually quite easy.

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TIP: I was concerned that the apples would cause the braiding to fall apart – again, so I separated my dough into four sections and flattened them into long rectangles.  Then I filled one section at a time (to avoid the lemon water bath which prevents the apples from browning but also leaves the apples wet and hard to dry).  I cut about a half an apple into small pieces and spread them onto the dough rectangle, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and pinched it closed to form a ‘rope’.  Then I repeated with the other three.  The braiding process is not that complicated once you get started.  I loved Tori’s numbered strands but got lost going into the third round so figured out an easy method to follow. I made one large challah but you can also make two smaller loaves by dividing the dough into 8 pieces.

Next week I will feature the challah I make for Fridays (and for Break Fast) which is a gorgeous six braid challah – so don’t forget to check back…

L’ Shana Tovah!

 

Apple Honey Challah

  • Servings: 12
  • Print

Ingredients: All at room temperature
3 eggs (2 lightly beaten , one saved for the egg wash)
1 cup warm water (warm to wrist, about 100 degrees)
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup oil (I prefer grapeseed, but any good lighter oil works well)
2 tsp salt
5 cups white flour (bread flour preferably but all purpose is fine)
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsn yeast
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  • Put all ingredients in bread machine in the order listed.  It’s very important that all ingredients are at room temperature (except the water) or the yeast will not activate. Set the bread machine to the dough cycle which should take about an hour and a half.  I usually let it sit another half hour.  If you don’t have a bread machine, click on Tori Avey for great instructions on making handmade dough.

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  • Lightly flour your work surface to prevent sticking. Remove dough from bread machine and cut into four equal pieces if making one large challah or eight pieces if making two. If you are making two, keep half the dough in a bowl covered with a towel while you prepare the first one.

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  • Flatten the four pieces into rectangular pieces, making sure they don’t get too thin or the apples will fall out.

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  • Peel, core and cut one half apple into a fine dice and spread onto the first dough rectangle.  Sprinkle with a bit of sugar and cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, if desired)

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  •  Pinch the rectangle closed, enclosing the apples, and make into a rope.  You might have to stretch it a bit.  Make sure the ends are closed.  Repeat with other three rectangles.

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  • Arrange the four strands into a criss cross pattern, shown above (tighter is better than loose) You can follow the directions below or for printable numbered illustrations from Shiksa in the Kitchen click HERE

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  • Cross the top left strand over the one to it’s right.

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  • Going clockwise, repeat with the three other sides.  It’s less complicated than it looks.

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  •  Now going counterclockwise, cross the remaining straight pieces over the strands you just crossed.

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  • Keep going around the circle, stretching a bit if necessary, until you’re left with short ends.

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  • Tuck the shorts ends under and secure them with a pinch (underneath). Cover with a clean, dry towel and let raise 20 minutes or so.

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  • Place challah on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Beat the remaining egg and add a dash of salt.  Brush the eggwash over the braided challah.  You can top with sesame or poppy seeds, or even add honey to your wash.  Reserve eggwash.

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  • Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees.  My oven is hot so I bake at 325.  After 20 minutes remove from the oven and brush with a light layer of the eggwash, especially in the grooves where the dough expands (and sometimes cracks).

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  • Remove from the oven and let cool on wire racks. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the loaf—if it makes a hollow sound, and it’s golden brown all the way across, it’s done. Because of the apples in this challah, it may take a bit longer to bake than your regular challah recipe. Its better to overcook than undercook.  If it’s brown but not yet fully cooked, tent with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning.  To serve, slice or pull apart.

Photo Credits:

Apples and Honey – http://www.epicurious.com/images/articlesguides/holidays/highholydays/apples-honey_612.jpg

Apple + Honey – http://schechternetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/e-newsletters/2011-09-27_files/163.jpg