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[Photograph: Kate Williams]

As Nathalie Dupree explains in her and Cynthia Graubart's new cookbook, Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking, squash casserole is an enduring favorite at Southern potlucks. I know that I ate plenty of the stuff growing up, but it was mostly because the flavor of the squash was covered up by ungodly amounts of cheese and butter. These days, I prefer actually tasting my vegetables. Luckily, Dupree's version contains enough squash, onion, and peppers to taste more of summer produce than bulk cheese.

Why I picked this recipe: This dish is a potluck classic for a reason: buttery squash meets cheesy custard meets butter and pecans. What's not to love?

What worked: Dupree's version is certainly the most colorful squash casserole I've encountered, and these extra vegetables serve double duty as a lightener amongst all that butter and cheese. The nutty pecan and breadcrumb topping offered excellent contrast to the tender squash mixture.

What didn't: Next time, I'd cook the casserole for a shorter time, as the eggs were a bit overdone went I pulled it at 45 minutes. Start checking after 30 and you should be good to go.

Suggested tweaks: I opted to forgo boiling the squash, instead sautéing it until mashable. This saved an extra pot and added a bit more flavor. Be sure to drain the squash well before mashing it and adding it to the rest of the ingredients—vegetable water is the enemy of a good casserole.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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