The most important thing that I have learned about cooking vegetarian dishes over the last three years is that flavor and texture are equally important. When cooked, vegetables turn soft and unless texture is added, vegetable dishes become downright boring. The only exception to this would be stir fried vegetables but vegetarian daughter Sam isn’t particularly enamored with stir fries — a pity, really, because stir fries are my specialty.
It is this preoccupation with adding texture to vegetarian dishes that led me to renew my love for panko. It works wonders as perfectly illustrated in this dish. Panko was mixed with grated Parmesan, tossed with melted butter and spread over the slices of squash. Inside the oven, the melted butter turned the panko into tiny nuggets of crispiness. But that’s not all. Because the panko was mixed with Parmesan, the Parmesan added a subtle layer of creaminess to the crisp bread crumbs.
The dish came out so good and it was fortunate that I made more than enough for Sam because Speedy and Alex enjoyed it as much as Sam did.
Just a short note before the recipe. I understand that there are several varieties of squash in the northern hemisphere. I’m no botanist but, as far as I know, what we have in Asia is calabaza (Cucurbita moschata). According to Food.com, butternut squash may be substituted.
Based on a recipe from Betty Crocker.
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Scoop out the seeds of the squash and discard.
- Cut the squash into slices about half an inch thick.
- Brush or spray a baking dish with vegetable oil. Arrange the squash in the dish slightly overlapping one another. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- In a small pan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant.
- In a bowl, whisk the Parmesan and panko together. Drizzle in two tablespoons of the butter-garlic mixture. Toss well to combine.
- Spread the Parmesan-panko mixture over the squash slices.
- Bake at 375F for 30 to 40 minutes or just until the squash is cooked through. Take the baking dish out of the oven and pierce one slice with a fork to test. If you're happy with the texture, it's time for the next step.
- The Parmesan-panko that has fallen directly into the baking dish will be more brown than what's on top of the squash slices at this point. Scoop them with a spoon and scatter on top of the squash slices.
- Turn up the oven temperature to 425F. Put the squash back into the oven and cook for another five to seven minutes.
- Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.
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