March 17, 2011
Mud season is here! Awesome. This gives me some hope that the big yellow glowing orb in the sky may actually make its way north of Massachusetts and hang around for more than a day. I’m not fully convinced yet. Until then, I’m still eating and cooking with winter vegetables. Mercifully, there are still some great ones left.
Take, for instance, two hip winter squashes on the scene – the Delicata and the Carnival. These varieties, apparently, were popular back in the early 20th century but fell out of favor until recently when small farms around the country started growing them again. Lucky for us Portlanders, a few farmers have them at the Portland Winter’s Farmers Market. So, I picked up a few and tried them – just what I needed on the tail end (please, God!) of a long, cold winter.
Seriously. These are weirdly good. They’re sometimes called Sweet Potato Squash because of their taste. I thought they were far tastier than your average sweet potato – plus, they lacked that fibrous texture of a sweet potato, that can be a little tough. They also have a soft skin that you can eat so there’s no need to peel the squash or prep it much at all. Perfect for weekdays!
You can find recipes for stuffing a delicate squash, which I’m sure would be delicious, but I opted for the simple prep. By just roasting slices of the squash with some butter and brown sugar, the tops of the squash caramelized just a bit to bring out one of my favorite food phrases, “it’s like candy!”
Roasted Delicata Squash
The recipe is simple with very little prep. A really easy side for a pork or chicken dish. Adapted from Chez Pim (which is a great blog and has step-by-step pictures of this recipe)
Serves 4 Adults.
Prep Time = 10 minutes, tops
Cooking Time = 30 minutes.
2 Delicata Squashes
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 Tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
- Heat oven to 450.
- Cut squash into about six long pieces, removing seeds, and place on rimmed baking sheet.
- Drizzle squash pieces equally with unsalted butter, brown sugar, and salt.
- Roast for about 25- 30 minutes.
If I’m voting for head cheerleader, Delicata Squash wins. But, that’s really not to take away from the Carnival Squash. This type of squash is pretty close to an acorn squash and tastes somewhere between a butternut squash and sweet potato. Since it has such a firm outer skin, I got a little more involved with this one and stuffed it with a wild rice mixture.
Carnival Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Pecans and Cranberries
Want to make this super easy? You could substitute the wild rice mixture for your favorite boxed rice blend. Just follow their cooking instructions, stuff and then heat in the 350 oven for 10 minutes.
Heartily Serves 4 Adults.
Prep Time = 20 minutes
Cooking Time = One Hour
2 Carnival Squashes
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 Tablespoon
3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
2 teaspoons thyme, divided
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Shallot, Minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup Wild Rice mixture (from the bulk section or a boxed blend)
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries
- Heat oven to 350.
- Cut squashes in half. Trim the bottoms so they easily stand up, if needed.
- Mix the melted butter and maple syrup in a small bowl and then brush the mixture onto the inside of the squash. Season with one teaspoon of thyme, salt and pepper.
- Place the squash, cut side down, in a roasting pan filled with just a scant bit (like 1/4 inch high) of water. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast for about 30 minutes or until the inside flesh is fork-tender.
- Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and shallot in 1 Tablespoon butter for 3-5 minutes on medium heat, until softened.
- Add the wine and cook about 3-5 minutes more, until most of the wine is absorbed.
- Add the rice blend and 1 3/4 cup of water.
- Bring to a quick boil, then cover and simmer about 30 minutes.
- After the rice is just about done, add the pecans and dried cranberries and mix.
- Once the squash is tender, remove it from the oven, flip over and then stuff with the wild rice mixture.
- Place it back in the oven, uncovered, for about 10 minutes.