Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Food for Thought—Holiday Side Dishes

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, my family loves the old standbys—turkey with bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. To go with this traditional fare, I like to try different things with the side dishes. In the leafy green department, brussels sprouts are a fall favorite. My family also loves bright orange vegetables like butternut squash and sweet potatoes. I like turnips but my kids hate them, although I used to mash some in with the potatoes and they ate them without suspecting a thing. Mom’s can be so devious.

So for the month of November I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes for side dishes. To kick off the month, I’ve decided to post a squash recipe that I’ve modified from my Grandmother McKenzie’s cook book—the Modern Priscilla Cook Book—which has been passed down to me.

The cover is quite shabby and the copyright page is missing, but I believe it was published in the 1920s or maybe the early 1930s.

Let's start with the ingredients for the original recipe for “Squash au Gratin.”

2 cups mashed squash
2 tablespoons melted butter
salt, pepper
2 eggs
1/3 cup grated cheese
buttered crumbs
As you can probably imagine, the recipes in this old cook book use a lot of butter. This recipe also says that if the squash is very dry, “a little cream may be added.”

To make this a little more heart healthy, I substitute olive oil for the melted butter. I also add a grating of nutmeg for flavor, omit the cheese, and replace the buttered crumbs with chopped cashews. But the egg and squash combination still produce the original souffle-like texture that make this side dish so appealing. These are the ingredients I use.

2 cups cooked, mashed squash (butternut is our favorite)
1 tablespoon olive oil
a generous grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
finely chopped cashews
And here are my instructions, modified from the original, as you can tell by my use of a microwave!

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place the two halves cut side down in a shallow, microwaveable dish. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish and microwave on High. Cooking time will vary, depending on the type of microwave you have. You can also bake the squash in the oven for half an hour or so.

Let the squash cool, scoop the pulp into a bowl, and mash it. Stir in the olive oil, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Add the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Put this mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the top with the chopped cashews. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Serves 6.

Both versions are very tasty. If you try them, I hope you enjoy them!

Here are a few more pictures from the cookbook. I love how the stains on some pages lead me to some of my grandmother's favorites, like these fruit cake recipes.

And inside the back cover, handwritten recipes for beet relish and chocolate fudge.

My grandmother died before I was born but I’ve been told many times and by many people that she was an amazing cook, so having her cook book in my collection is truly an honor.

Until next time,


Gillian Layne said...

Lee, that book is so sweet! I don't have a cookbook from my grandmother, but I do have a box of her recipe cards that I love. Brussels sprouts are my favorite, too, but my kids won't touch them--which is more for me. :)

I like them cut in half and mixed with fried rice. Yum!

Lee McKenzie said...

The wonderful thing about boxes of recipe cards is that each is collection is so uniquely personal. What a treasure to have your grandmother's.

Gillian, your Brussels sprouts sound delicious! I'll be posting my favorite recipe later this month.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lee!

I have a couple of my grandmother's cookbooks. One of them has been so well used, the binding has disintegrated and I store it in a ziploc bag. I don't eat fruitcake, but my mother always used the recipe from this cookbook and people have always raved about it. And that was before she started soaking them in alcohol. ;-)


Lee McKenzie said...

I love fruit cake but have never actually made it.

My mother and my other grandmother used to make theirs in September. I remember them poking the cakes with a skewer and drizzling brandy over them. The skewer holes allowed the brandy to permeate the cake. Then they'd wrap them in cheesecloth, waxed paper and tinfoil, and store them in a cool dark cupboard.

Every couple of weeks the cakes were brought out, unwrapped and drizzled with a little more brandy.

A long, time-consuming process worth every bit of the effort!