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Light and lovely as summer gratins are, there’s something satisfying about using a denser root vegetable for the base of a vegetable bake—and you won’t have to worry about anything getting overly watery as you bake it (zucchini, I’m looking at you).
But while traditional gratin is typically made with lots of dairy—cheese and cream and butter—and a breadcrumb topping, this one relies on a simple yet satisfying vegan sauce and an almond-based gluten-free topping.
Aware of my own tendency to over-use cashews for all things creamy, I opted to make this more of a traditional white sauce, starting with some sautéed shallots and garlic and whisking in some almond milk.
To thicken the sauce, you can use flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder—whatever you have at home or prefer. The sauce comes together easily and quickly, and it’s a great, all purpose base for “creamy” results in dairy-free cooking.
For the topping, I pulse almonds, cheesy-flavored nutritional yeast, salt, garlic, and a drizzle of olive oil in the food processor. The result is a salty, cheesy, and crunchy crust for the dish.
I’d take this topping over breadcrumbs any day; I’d probably make the whole dish as an excuse to scrape the topping off when no one’s looking and eat it with a spoon. The best part is that you can substitute it easily in most recipes that call for breadcrumbs for a gluten-free alternative.
Extra flavor, and friendliness toward your vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free diners: win, win.
For the gratin:
2 1/2 pounds cubed butternut squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons brown rice flour (alternately, you can use 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder or cornstarch)
Black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
For the topping:
1/2 cup almonds
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons olive oil
Photos by James Ransom