Delicata Inamorata

In the winter squash universe, everyone, it seems, has an exotic- sounding name or one of those sweet-nothing terms of endearment. Kabocha. Hubbard and Kuri. Buttercup and Sweet Dumpling. (Don’t you feel amorous just by the mere mention of their names?)

Delicata rings with lacinato kale and Israeli couscous. (Kim O'Donnel)

I must confess, however, the one variety that stands above the rest and has me howling at the moon like a star-crossed lover is Delicata.

With her thin, edible skin, she makes slicing a breeze and dinner prep like a walk in the park. I slice her into squash doughnut holes, and in less than an hour, she’s tender, naturally sweet and ready for feasting. She requires little seasoning (some salt and a little oil to keep from sticking will do), as her true essence --a cross of sweet potato and corn – emerges after some time in the oven.

If you’re wondering how a bunch of roasted squash doughnuts could be called supper, humor me just a little bit more: Team it up with a quick-cooking autumn green like lacinato kale (aka dinosaur kale) and your favorite stove-top grain, and you've got an autumnal riot of color on the plate, a variety of textures and flavors talking to each other.

What she looks like on the outside... (Kim O'Donnel)

Nutritionally, Delicata is nuturing, offering extraordinary amounts of vitamins A and C, lots of potassium, fiber and yes, even some of those heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. The kale, in turn, offers off-the-charts amounts of vitamin K, more of that A & C, respectable amounts of calcium and even a wee bit of protein. After dinner, you should feel like a million bucks.

And on the inside... (Kim O'Donnel)

So if you’ve given up on winter squash because you need to buy or borrow an axe to wield the skin, give my girl Delicata a whirl. I reckon you'll fall in love -- at first bite .

Roasted Delicata Squash Supper
1 delicata squash, cut into ½-inch rings, seeds and strings removed
A few tablespoons of vegetable oil
Salt to taste
1 cup of kale leaves, stem removed
1-2 cups quinoa (great gluten-free option), Israeli couscous or pearl barley, cooked according to package instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place squash in a single layer on a baking tray or in a oven-proof dish. With a silicone brush, apply oil on both sides of squash rings, applying salt on both sides as well.

Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare quinoa, couscous or pearl barley. Just before the grains are done, add kale, cover pot and allow to steam right on top.

With tongs or a fork, turn squash onto second side. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Return squash to oven for another 15 minutes or until fork tender.

Spoon kale-carb mélange onto a plate and serve with squash rings.

Makes enough for two, maybe three servings.

By Kim ODonnel |  November 3, 2008; 7:20 AM ET Fall Produce , Meatless Monday , Vegetarian/Vegan
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Just wondering: Is the oil really necessary? When I roast butternut squash, I just cut in half, scoop out seeds, and roast for an hour. No need for oil, the squash has great flavor all on its own. Thanks!

Posted by: ilovefrosting | November 3, 2008 9:31 AM

Hi Kim. I have to admit that I do not like winter squash. It bothers me that I don't like it, so I have tried eating it several different ways (soup, roasted, sauteed, pureed). But, so far, pumpkin, butternut, and acorn squashes all taste distinctly and unpleasantly "squashy" to me. On the other hand I LOVE zucchini and summer squash. So, based on your description, I am going to try delicata. It seems like it may taste closer to summer squash than the other winter squashes I have tried. Thanks for opening my eyes to a new squash!

Posted by: SweetieJ | November 3, 2008 9:57 AM

Us good ole boys had a great weekend my friends and I were able to eliminate 7 Bambi's during the first weekend of black powder season. If any wants pixs of the hanging carcasses just ask!
And we are really really sorry about what happened to ELF and PETA fools who tried to stop us. Did you get out of the woods before dark? We hope hypothermia set in!

You should stay off private property! Its the law!

Posted by: omarthetentmaker | November 3, 2008 10:00 AM

Squash recipe looks good. A savory wild rice stuffing seems like it would also go well.

Posted by: davemarks | November 3, 2008 10:27 AM

Ilovefrosting, the oil is unnecessary, but I do find that when you cut into rings and have flesh exposed, it sticks to the pan. If that's okay with you, I'd say, leave out the oil. I'm brushing on about the equivalent of 1 tablespoon for an entire squash.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 3, 2008 10:50 AM

Great idea on the wild rice, davemarks. Bulgur pilaf just came to mind, too. There are lots of potential grainy companions.

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 3, 2008 10:52 AM

SweetieJ, Delicata has a sweetness that reminds me more of sweet potatoes than it does squash, and it cooks up so quickly in the rings, I think it's worth one try to know what it's all about. Let me know what you think!

Posted by: Kim ODonnel | November 3, 2008 10:54 AM

May we have details on grain-y and wild rice sides? (maybe a future post)? They sound really good to me.

BTW Kim, you've mentioned that you don't care for spaghetti squash - I overcooked one (if that is even possible) and it lacked strings and crunch. Mushed it up with garlic and chili flakes, salt, pepper and white cheddar ('bout 1 cup, shredded) and could not keep myself away. Not very sweet, but oh so good on a cold day!

Posted by: con-e | November 3, 2008 12:53 PM

Kim - thanks for the info on this variety. I had no idea that delicata skin was edible. Since I use winter squash based on ease of preparation, you've now expanded my winter squash menu beyond butternut and acorn. I think I'll like these squash rings.

Posted by: esleigh | November 3, 2008 2:22 PM

Thanks for the recipe Kim! I am looking forward to trying this one! :)

Posted by: Merdi | November 3, 2008 3:25 PM

As for hating to cut winter squash, simply ask the produce man to cut it in half for you. He's got some kind of buzz saw in the back. He'll seal it in shrink wrap and you can save it for a couple of days if you're not ready to use it. Just baked a couple of acorn squash with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon [exellent for matabolizing blood sugar] So autumn yummy I could cry.

Posted by: vnosky | November 6, 2008 1:31 PM

We love these too, but in the midwest we call them sweet potato squash. They really do taste like sweet potatoes, I had always roasted them in half but I will try this ring/donut version this weekend.

Posted by: kathND | November 7, 2008 8:02 AM

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