For the past few days, Toronto the Good has been sitting in one of those awkward in-between stages where the weather can’t quite decide what season we’re in – it’s not quite winter, but not quite spring. We’ve yo-yoed from -15C to +17C to -4C over less than a week, and from sunshine to rain to clouds to rain to snow to that strange combo of snow/sleet/rain that the weather channel oh-so-charmingly calls “variable precipitation” (I prefer to call it “wet crap falling from the sky”).
My biggest frustration with this time of year, aside from trying to pick out what to wear on any given day, is the lack of good seasonal vegetables. Aside from greens and roots, there’s really not much left that’s worth eating, unless you’re willing to pay a small fortune for a pear flown in from Argentina… and it’ll be another month or two before it warms up enough to see the first of the spring vegetables.
So I guess it’s a good thing I can never get enough of squash, huh?
This is a warm, comforting side dish for a blustery not-quite-spring evening, and though does require a bit of advance prep, it’s totally worth it… it’s rich and silky like a squash casserole ought to be, but it’s not sickly sweet or covered with marshmallows like its bastard cousin, the Southern-style sweet potato casserole.
I borrowed the crumb topping from a recipe in the LCBO’s Food and Drink Magazine, where it was used in an otherwise uninteresting lamb and polenta dish (here’s the original). I like it much better here, where it provides a tasty twisty to the more traditional pecan topping.
No squash? No problem! Sweet potatoes are a great alternative.
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
- 3 tbsp butter, divided
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup cubed stale bread (preferably ciabatta)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 2 tbsp each chopped fresh mint and parsley
- ½ cup coarsely chopped pistachios
- preheat the oven to 350F, and lightly butter a 1-quart baking dish.
- In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, combine the squash cubes and just enough water to cover. Cook for 20-25 minutes, or until very tender.
- Meanwhile, in a skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the remaining tablespoon butter. Add onion and garlic, and saute for 5 minutes or until soft and golden. Add spices and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 1 minute to wake up the spices.
- Drain the cooked squash, and return to the pot. Add 2 tbsp butter, and mash until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the cooked onion mixture and eggs to the mashed squash, and stir until well combined. Using a spatula, smooth the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- To prepare the topping, pulse the bread cubes in a food processor until you have large, coarse crumbs. Set aside.
- In a large frying pan, heat oil and garlic until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add bread crumbs all in one go. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 to 5 minutes or until crumbs are golden and crisp. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the casserole, and bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until hot and lightly browned.