Seriously Simple: Move over, butternut: Delicata squash is back and better than ever
Delicata squash was popular in the early part of the 20th century but went out of style due to poor yields and proneness to disease. Enter Cornell University's experts in plant breeding that bred the bush delicata. This newer breed squash is noted not only for its deliciousness but also its resistance to disease. This just-right size squash has a rich orange flesh that tastes a bit like sweet pumpkin and possesses a velvety texture.
As the name suggest, the skin of this squash is in fact delicate. It has extra health benefits, so eat the skin along with the flesh.
The delicata squash is my pick for Seriously Simple cooking. It is easy to cut and quick to cook. When selecting, look for a light, buttery, creamy color with long green stripes with no visible soft spots. Use a chef's knife and cut the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. You can also clean and roast the seeds if you like. This squash is available until late January.
Most recipes for this squash call for cutting the squash into 1-inch half-moons. I prefer the recipe below where the squash is cut into quarters and high-heat roasted. Either way, you will be surprised at the versatility this squash exhibits in creative dishes. It's good for snacks and in myriad dishes. Prepare the squash below and zhoosh it up with a sprinkling of different herbs. I like to combine sea salt, sumac and zaatar and lightly sprinkle it over the golden slices after roasting. You could give it a Provencal touch with a sprinkling of herb de Provence over the warm squash. Or you could add a drizzle of maple syrup to the squash just before roasting. What else? Try the squash as a filling for tacos or place the cooked squash in a blender with vegetable stock and puree for a creamy (without any cream) autumnal potage. And don't forget how beautiful a platter of this will look on your holiday table
Roasted Delicata Squash
Note: This may be doubled or tripled. Use separate baking sheets.
2 delicata squash, about a pound each, washed and well cleaned to remove any wax
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Other seasonings, (see above for ideas), optional
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Trim the ends of the squash off. Then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and stringy flesh from the center. Cut each in half again so you have 4 quarters for each squash. (If you cut them into 1-inch half moons you will roast them for about a total of 25 to 30 minutes, turning them once.)
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then oil the paper. Oil the squash pieces inside and out. I like to brush the squash all over with oil and then season the inside flesh with salt and pepper.
Lay quarters flesh-side down on the baking sheet and bake for about 18 minutes on one side and then turn over and continue roasting for another 18 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Transfer the squash to serving platter with a wide spatula and sprinkle with salt and pepper and other seasonings, if desired. Serve immediately.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)