Humble vegetables get a snazzy treatment!
Sometimes the humblest of vegetables can yield the most delicious surprises; they can also be far more versatile than you might imagine, as this dish proves. Including squash and kale in a savoury bread pudding-style casserole with caramelized onions, eggs and cheese offers a beautiful blend of flavours and textures. It’s a dish sure to make everyone from vegetarians to omnivores very happy. You can swap in other root vegetables as well – I’ve also made this recipe with rutabaga (turnip), sweet potatoes and carrots and it’s been excellent every time. Note that you can assemble this dish up to 12 hours ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
- 2 medium-sized onions, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 cups (500 mL) heavy cream
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon (2.5 g) fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon (1 g) dried thyme
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups (260 g) peeled, cubed butternut squash, in 1/2 inch or 1.25 cm cubes
- 1 cup (100 g) finely shredded kale (remove ribs before chopping)
- 6 thick slices day-old country-style bread, in 1/2 inch or 1.25 cm cubes
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1 cup (115 g) finely grated stronger-flavoured cheese (Tomme, Swiss or Gouda)
- 1 cup (100 g) finely grated Parmesan
- good-quality balsamic vinegar, to garnish
- Grease a 9 x 13 inch (22.5 x 32.5 cm) ceramic or glass baking dish with butter or olive oil. Set aside.
- Caramelize onions by heating the olive oil in a large skillet placed over medium-high heat. Add onions and pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have begun to soften. Cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low; continuing cooking another 25 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden.
- While onions are cooking, steep garlic and thyme in the heavy cream by heating together in a small saucepan, or in a microwave-safe bowl. As soon as it comes to a boil, immediately remove from heat and place in refrigerator to cool.
- Cook cubed squash in a pot of boiling water to which 2 teaspoons (12 g) of kosher salt have been added until just barely tender, about 2 minutes. Drain then pour cooked squash into a bowl of ice water. Let sit 5 minutes then remove with a slotted spoon onto a clean kitchen towel and pat dry.
- If cooking promptly, preheat oven to 350F.
- Add the cooked squash and caramelized onions to the baking dish along with the shredded kale and cubed bread.
- In a large bowl, beat eggs then add cooled cream mixture and grated cheeses along with a few pinches each of salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well then pour over the squash, onions, kale and bread in the baking dish. With your fingertips or the back of a spoon, press down on the mixtures so that all the pieces of bread are immersed in the liquid.
- Let the mixture rest for at least 10 minutes in the baking dish so the bread becomes thoroughly saturated before baking (or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours).
- Bake at 350F for 40 – 50 minutes, until golden brown at the edges and set in the centre (the casserole should not jiggle when you shake the dish). If baking straight from the refrigerator, you may need to add a few more minutes of cooking time.
- Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving. Cut into squares and drizzle lightly with balsamic then serve warm.
Serves 8 – 10; recipe can easily be scaled up or down.