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Gratin of red kuri squash

(Béatrice Peltre for the boston globe)
November 5, 2008
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Serves 4

Like many varieties of winter squash, red kuri squash (also known as Japanese squash, orange hokkaido, or uchiki kuri squash) offers a promise of nourishing dinners. With its bright orange skin, and small teardrop shape, you'll easily recognize kuri; inside, the firm flesh has a creamy chestnut-like flavor. Baked, braised, steamed, or pureed, this squash tastes wonderful; serve it as a side dish or use it as a base for soups. For this simple gratin, you don't need to peel the squash. Roast, steam, or boil it with potatoes, then puree them, and stir in grated zucchini. Add ricotta, parsley, and a flavorful cheese (blue works well), or a milder one (Fontina, which melts nicely). After half an hour, you have a delicious side dish that will make you rejoice over fall's harvest.

Butter (for the dish)
1 small red kuri squash (a generous 1 pound), seeded and sliced
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small zucchini, grated
2/3 cup ricotta
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for the top
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated Fontina or crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter, cut up (for the top)
1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.

2. In a large saucepan fitted with a steamer insert, combine the squash and potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, and steam over high heat for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a skewer.

3. Using a food mill or ricer set over a bowl, work the vegetables to form a puree. Or mash them with a potato masher until they are coarsely pureed. Add the zucchini, ricotta, nutmeg, parsley, 1/4 cup of the Fontina or blue cheese, and plenty of salt and pepper.

4. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish. Smooth the top. Add the remaining 1/4 cup cheese, butter, and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

5. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is golden. Let the dish rest for 5 minutes before serving. Béatrice Peltre

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