Squash Gratin, Southern Style

By Gosh, this is Squash Nosh.

Many of you know by now that often my ramblings are more than about the following recipe. Many times it is of the history of southern cuisine, particularly relating to my upbringing and our way of cookery. On occasion it is about the origin of a recipe, how it got into our kitchens, our way of life and why we adore it as we do. Most often my thoughts are about the food we eat, why we enjoy it and what makes it so good as well as the technique in properly preparing it, southern style. And on occasion, like today, my rambling is way off into another area; like the origin of a word we use in cooking.

Squash is a racquet sport played by two or four players, was first played 1830 and was formerly called squash racquets, a reference to the "squashable" soft ball used in play. Also in sports, the term squash is used in an professional wrestling as a extremely one-sided match. Of course, the word also means to manually suppress or quash something to a pulp; to emotional or psychological disconcert with pressure as with a crushing retort; and it too means squeezing something into a small space. It's originated in language around 1555.

Now for most of us, relating to food, squash means only one thing: Good eating. From the American Narragansett language (1635) and Massachusetts Algonquian family (1643), the word squash is the eatable fruit from any of various vine-like, tendril-bearing plants belonging to the genus Curcurbita of the gourd family. Known in existence from the pre-Columbian Era, we many times classify the vegetable squash as winter or summer when in fact, those terms are given for its usage, not when it is actually in the markets. Summer squash is available in the winter and likewise, winter butternut is a featured special at our local grocer this week, in June. You see, the terminology was given back when seasonal crops produced a more crucial time-frame for growing. Tender squash like our patty-pan, yellow crookneck and zucchini were planted, weather permitted, and the fruit was harvested for consumption before spoilage. What was not readily eaten was "put up" or canned for the winter months. Squash that became known as "the good keepers" were called winter squash due to the longevity in storage. Gathered in the fall and put away until the winter months, these squash were stored in basements or cold rooms.

Squash has another meaning in the food and drink category. It is a concentrated syrup in many flavors that is usually fruit based and may be combined with an alcoholic beverage for cocktails. But for the recipe today, the definition of the English word squash goes back to the Native Narragansett Indian "askutasquash" which means "a green thing eaten raw" or uncooked. Happily, we enjoy the yellow ones too.


Squash Gratin

about 6 serving

4 yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/2 sweet onion (vidalia), chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 finely chopped jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup grated farmers cheese or your favorite

In a large bowl, toss the squash with the salt; let sit 25 minutes, then rinse well and pat completely dry.

In a food processor, add remaining ingredients except the cheese and pulse to chop ingredients.

Fold the mixture with the squash and 3/4 cup grated cheese. Arrange evenly in a 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees F, 35 to 40 minutes.


  1. Looks like a fine squash dish.

  2. Sounds great!! What a great dish for the summer squash. Blessings, Catherine

  3. Thank you so much for the b-day wishes! Much appreciated.
    You sure gave me something to think about with squash on this post. I didn't know some of that history, but I sure love squash in a casserole or cooked on the stove top.


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