If life has taught me anything, it’s that things don’t typically work out the way you’d planned. Life throws you curve balls, lemons, wrenches, and sometimes — plain old boulders.
Sometimes you can think or work or luck your way out of it, but usually, you just have to adapt.
Such was the case with this recipe. The recipe that I was trying to go off of called for butternut squash. We had Delicata squash. The recipe wanted me to use plain goat cheese. We had fig goat cheese. The recipe wanted milk. The best I could do was soak some cashews and cross my fingers.
And just like sour lemons can lead to sweet lemonade, sometimes adaptation can lead to positively delicious results — not to mention random bursts of creativity.
Let me tell you a little something about Delicata squash: It’s the high-maintenance cousin of butternut squash. Instead of peeling one smooth butternut squash and getting enough flesh for the recipe, I had to peel four smaller, bumpier Delicata squash. This was not an easy feat.
Slicing it into rings before I peeled it probably didn’t help matters, either. When I initially began prepping the squash, I thought I might roast it first, then peel it. I changed my mind only after slicing up all four squash. Oh well. I have a feeling this would’ve been a trial regardless.
It took me a solid hour to seed and peel the damn squash. I had to use a paring knife to dig out the bits of skin that clung to the deep crevices along the sides. I streamed the whole thing live on Facebook while listening to 90s music on Pandora. Too bad a copyright claim by 4 Non Blondes put the kibosh on keeping the video on my page.
After what turned out to be a rather meditative squash-cubing exercise, the rest of the recipe came together incredibly fast. Slicing and sautéing leeks, adding in a little white wine for the hell of it, then deciding at the last minute to throw in a head of Romanesco for some texture and color.
Creativity. Born out of the need to improvise (and get rid of some CSA goodies). Things have a way of working themselves out.
- 4 Delicata squash, peeled and cubed into ½-inch pieces
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 4 leeks, cleaned and sliced
- ¼ cup white wine (See Notes)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 4 ounces fig goat cheese (or regular goat cheese)
- 1 small head Romanesco or cauliflower, chopped into small chunks
- 1/3 cup cashew milk (See Notes for instructions)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash cubes in about 1 Tbsp olive oil, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until tender, approximately 20 minutes.
- While the squash is roasting, heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, thyme, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté for about five minutes, add wine, then sauté for another 10 minutes or so, until leeks are tender but not brown.
- Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about half of the squash on the bottom, then half of the leeks, then half of the goat cheese. Repeat, reserving a little of the goat cheese.
- Sprinkle the Romanesco pieces on top of the gratin, then top with the rest of the goat cheese.
- Reduce oven temp to 375°F. Pour the cashew milk evenly over the dish. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes (until gratin is heated through and the goat cheese and Romanesco on the top is just starting to get golden).
- Wine: I prefer a rather dry white while cooking. This time around, I used a Sauvignon Blanc.
- Cashew milk: Soak a handful of cashews in 1/3 cup water for at least two hours. In a pinch, put the nuts and water in a microwave-safe container and nuke for 30 seconds to one minute. Blend everything in a blender until smooth.