I’m channeling the great Martha Stewart today with this recipe for Butternut Squash Apple Leek Gratin. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I L-O-V-E Martha Stewart. I’ve been a fan since it was ridiculously uncool – think grunge period, when my college friends and I were wearing ratty flannel shirts, torn jeans and too much mascara, and dinner was ramen noodles or Taco Bell.
Even then, I was entranced by the life she built around her 1805 farmhouse in Connecticut. I could see myself growing herbs, preserving vegetables and hosting dinner parties by candlelight at rustic but perfectly decorated tables under the stars. Homemaking had a long dry spell brought on by the necessity of dual incomes, but suddenly Martha Stewart made it fun again.
When she went to jail for securities fraud I had a defensive sort of OJ-moment – Martha was framed! – but in truth I think she made a mistake, paid for it, and has moved on with a lot of grace and resilience. I’m still buying her books and watching her cooking school show, drawing inspiration from a woman who made all the things I love to do -cooking, sewing and gardening – into an empire.
Butternut Squash Apple Leek Gratin is a simple recipe with perfectly balanced flavors. The sweetness of the apple, earthiness of the butternut squash and the sharpness of the Parmesan are offset nicely by the sautéed leeks and fresh sage. Add this to your recipe box for Thanksgiving, or for anytime you’re looking for something to do with butternut squash other than soup.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 large leek, white part only, washed and thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus leaves for garnish
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced ⅛-inch thick
- 1 pound apples, peeled, cored, quartered and cut into ⅛-inch thick slices
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese - omit for vegan or Paleo - option to replace with ½ cup soy cheese for vegan or ½ cup diced Pancetta for Paleo
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté, stirring, they begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add sherry and sage and cook until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes; set aside.
- In a 2-quart shallow baking dish, arrange squash in overlapping layers; season with salt and pepper. Spread leeks evenly over the squash.
- Arrange apples in an overlapping layer over the leeks. Brush apples with remaining tablespoon oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 45 minutes.
- Uncover and sprinkle Parmesan or pancetta over the top. Turn on broiler, and place baking dish back in the oven. Broil until Parmesan or pancetta is browned on top. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with sage leaves.
I'm having a technical issue with my nutrition label generator today so I've entered the nutrition info for this recipe manually as part of the recipe. I'll come back and add a label as soon as the technical issue is resolved.
About the Photographs
The faded, charming blue-and-white patterned plate and the old silver fork in this shot are antiques from my favorite vintage store – The Pink Cabbage, near Ellicott City, Maryland. The place has a country modern vibe that I just love, and I wouldn’t miss their massive spring Funky Flea, a benefit for breast cancer, for anything. Think distressed wood, old ceiling tiles and mismatched dishes. Food prop paradise.
Butternut Squash Apple Leek Gratin is basically a casserole, so it wasn’t a great candidate for shooting in the pan. In order to be able to see the separate layers of squash, apple, and leek, I scooped a serving out onto my pretty plate and shot the food as up close and personal as I could. To add interest, I placed three simple sage leaves on top of the food.
I took these photos with my Nikon D80, using a 28mm f2.8 NIKKOR wide angle lens. I used a Lowell Ego tabletop light like this one, in partial darkness (at about 3 p.m., with all lights in the room turned off, but with some sunlight streaming in through the windows ). The light was positioned to the front and right of the food. I did not use a reflector. My ISO was set at 400 and the shutter speed was 125. In both shots, the aperture was set at 2.8.
I had hoped to take this photograph in natural light, but not only is the light ending earlier in the day, now that summer has passed and daylight savings is on, there’s a smaller window of time in which the light is intense enough to provide enough light for beautiful food photography.