I love a fancy five course meal as much as the next foodie, but as nice as extravagance can be, most of the time I like keeping it simple.

Typically our meals consist of one hearty and comforting dish accompanied by some crusty bread and possibly a quick salad.  I don’t like thinking about side dishes and I am usually so excited about eating what has been bubbling away in the oven, slow cooker, or dutch oven all day that I don’t really feel like having to share space in my tummy for something else.

Most meals I love are best served in a bowl and are often not a dish you would typically consider a “main course” (I think this comes from my vegetarian leanings).  Take this lasagna-like gratin of thinly sliced butternut squash and creamed spinach.  A vegetable dish yes, but my idea of a perfect dinner.

You may be normal and like a plate perfectly portioned with a protein, veggie, and starch like you were taught is the correct make-up of a meal.  If so, this would be a great side dish for you!  I think this would also be a unique addition to a Thanksgiving spread.

As for me, I will probably curl up on my couch with an extra-large serving of this bubbly goodness and call it a night.

Butternut Squash and Creamed Spinach Gratin

Adapted from Gourmet Today edited by Ruth Reichl

Serves 4-6

20 oz frozen leaf spinach, thawed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 garlic cloves minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

scant 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 large butternut squash, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and seeded

1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Special equipment: a mandoline or other adjustable-blade vegetable slicer

Drain thawed spinach in a colander and squeeze in small handfuls to remove excess moisture.  Coarsely chop spinach and transfer to a bowl.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy skillet over moderately low heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 3-5 minutes.  Add onion mixture to spinach, along with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cream, and stir to combine.

Put a rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400°F.  Butter a 9-by-9-inch shallow baking dish.

Cut bulb sections from neck sections of squash.  Cut bulb and neck pieces lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices with slicer (Note: I have found butternut squash and sweet potatoes too hard to slice with a mandoline so I just slice the squash thinly with a knife. Maybe you have better mandoline skills.  If so, kudos!).

Layer about one fifth of squash slices in baking dish and cover with one quarter of spinach mixture.  Repeat layering 3 more times, ending with a layer of squash.  Sprinkle top evenly with cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon of butter.  Cover top with a sheet of parchment paper.

Bake until squash is tender and filling is bubbling, 25-30 minutes.  Remove paper and bake gratin until browned in spots, an additional 10-15 minutes.