I made this colorful dish for Christmas dinner and am just getting around to sharing it with you now. I’d like to say that I sat down and thought about everyone’s favorite vegetables and what would be pretty with the rest of the meal but honestly…I got rushed, and behind, and realized awfully late that I’d said I would bring a vegetable dish out to my Aunt Mary’s farm. I was grateful to find a kabocha squash, a head of red cabbage, and a spot of Parmesan cheese in the cooler.
Merry Christmas to me! Seriously.
When I bring a dish to someone else’s home, my goal is for it to be at least partially prepared ahead of time to minimize freaking the hostess out with the need for a cutting board, pans, and precious space on a crowded cooktop. I also knew that our meal was going to be awfully rich—standing rib roast, creamy potatoes, all the goodness of a holiday meal. This gratin exists in the realm of a pan of sauteed vegetables, with just a bit of cheese to tie it all together.
If you haven’t roasted a kabocha squash before, you’re in for such a treat! The rind is quite soft—edible even, although I confess I have yet to eat it myself—and the flesh is flavorful, smooth, and just-sweet. I predict it will be your favorite new squash. The play of smooth, sweet squash with still-crunchy cabbage is lovely with a roast. Or atop polenta for a meatless dinner.
Red Cabbage & Squash Gratin
1 kabocha squash
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced very thin
1/2 head red cabbage, cored & sliced very thin
several gratings of fresh nutmeg
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Cut the squash in half and scrape out and discard the seeds. Sprinkle the squash with a little salt and place cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour or until squash is very soft. Set aside to cool.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and a sprinkle of salt to the pan and saute cabbage until wilted, about 8 minutes. Add nutmeg, balsamic vinegar, and more salt to taste.
Scrape the squash flesh from the rind into a medium bowl (discard rind). Mash the squash until it is quite smooth. Spread the squash into a small oven-proof casserole dish. Top with the cabbage. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. (Can be prepared to this point one day head. Cool to room temperature then cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)
Bake the gratin at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until cheese is a bit browned. Serve hot.