Sunday, October 20, 2013

Not So Delicate, Delicata

So what is Delicata?  It is a distinctive winter squash.  It is actually in the same family as zucchini (a summer squash) but ripens later in the year with a harder flesh that needs to be cooked more like a winter squash.  It is shorter and thicker than a zucchini, with yellow skin and green to orange stripes.  It is also known as peanut squash or bohemian squash.  Delicata has gained in popularity greatly in the last couple of years and is one of my favorites.  The reason being is that it is smaller in size; perfect for two people, plus the skin is edible, so no peeling required.

Season for delicata starts in late September and is often available in to May.  It is very versatile and can move from your summer time menus into winter dinners.  The flavor is delicate, with a firm but creamy flesh.  I recommend it for grilling and roasting but not necessarily soups.

For summer time think about adding it to your grilling vegetables. To prep this long squash, you need to remove the seeds.  Then I recommend cutting it into rounds or crescents.  For grilling I recommend cutting them approximately a quarter inch thick then toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Allow a few minutes longer grilling than the rest of your veggies.

Grilled Delicata
1 delicata squash
1 zucchini
1 small red onion
1 red bell pepper
8 oz button mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat your grill to medium heat, cut all vegetables in to equal sizes, toss with olive oil and spices.  Start grilling with your delicata squash; it will take 7 to 8 minutes per side depending on thickness, second should be your onions.  When you turn the deicata move them to the outer edges of the grill to cook slower then add in the remaining veg.  Turn once or twice, cooking about 7 to 8 minutes. Try finishing them with just a splash of Balsamic vinegar

Delicata “Croutons”
Roasting delicata makes it perfect for adding to a salad and you can have some fun.  Prepare as above cutting into crescents.  Approximately ¼ inch thick,  lay out on a cookies sheet and sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Place in a 350 degree over for about 10 minutes, then turn, but before returning to the oven sprinkle lightly with  2 tablespoons of brown sugar mixed with 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne or chili powder.  Bake another 7 to 8 minutes.  Allow to cool completely, then toss a nice salad of arugula, pumpkin seeds and Chèvre, toss with Sherry vinaigrette and finish with your squash.

The vegetarian options with the squash are numerous.  Think of it as an edible container.  Cutting it into either tall cylinders or lengthwise for boats.  It will hold up to being roasted in advance or roasted with a filling.

Delicata Squash & Caramelized Onions
Think of a gluten free Alsatian Tart
3 Tbsp butter
2 lbs thinly sliced onions
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
4 eggs

Heat the butter in a heavy bottom pot till bubbly, add in thinly sliced onions, salt and thyme.  Turn down to medium low, stirring often, and cook to a golden caramelized color, then set aside and cool.  Combine the cream and eggs, whisk well.  Season onions with pepper and place into squash boats.  Finally, fill to the edge with cream egg mixture.  Bake approximately 30 minutes until the tip of a knife cuts easily through.  (PS – the traditional tart has bacon in it).