Delicata squash: A seasonal favorite from local farms

The farm stands and farmers markets are loaded with winter squash of just about every shape, size and color right now. One might find a giant blue hubbard squash that could feed an army, or maybe a small sweet dumpling squash, just right for tonight’s supper for one.

Good bargains abound, and most are not only nutritionally dense but also great winter keepers. You can store a butternut squash in a cool place for months; it has a thick protective skin. But the varieties with thinner skins, such as delicata, should be used in a week or two. The positive side is every bit of the fruits are edible, from the seeds to the skins, and they cook quickly, making them an easy option for a weeknight supper.

delicata squash
delicata squash

Maple roasted delicata squash
With hardly any hands-on time, this quick side can be made any weeknight, but it’s lovely enough for company or the holiday table. It can even serve as a stand-alone meal with a little side salad. Delicious and satisfying with just enough maple flavor for interest. But keep a watch on it at the end, because the maple will burn quickly.

Cut up the squash into rings but don’t bother to remove the seeds. You might like the texture, and they add a lot of nutrition. If you don’t care for the seeds, just use a paring knife to scrape them out, but give them a try; you might be surprised. The skins are always edible and a great source of fiber. Smoked paprika here enhances the smokiness of the maple syrup. Of course, always use real Vermont maple syrup.

1 large delicata squash
1 tablespoon dark amber Vermont maple syrup
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
Smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack.

Mix together the syrup and oil and set aside. Cut the squash into 3/4-inch sections. You don’t have to remove the seeds; many people like them. But if you wish, use a small paring knife or melon baller to scrape them out.
Remove the heated sheet from the oven and brush liberally with olive oil. Place the squash rings in a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and pop in the oven for seven or eight minutes. They will start to soften.
Remove from the oven, turn, and brush with the maple mixture, sprinkle with salt, pepper and the paprika.
Return to the oven for another five minutes, or until fully cooked and browned.

Wild rice and apple-stuffed delicata squash
When I was growing up, we grew only one or two varieties of squash, and when my mother did anything other than boiling the flesh, she stuffed them with a traditional bread stuffing, which was both filling and heavy. This recipe is much lighter and lower in carbohydrates than Mom’s original, and the apple adds a bit of sweet and tart.
To make this vegan, simply substitute a plant-based Parmesan. You can also substitute any cooked whole grain for the wild rice.

2 delicata squash, halved, seeded
1/2 yellow onion
1 large tart apple, diced
1 large juicy lemon
1 cup wild rice, cooked
1/4 cup fresh or panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. The seeds are edible, so if you like, clean them off and roast them along with the squash.

Place the squash halves on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and pop in the oven for about 10 minutes, just to precook and soften.

In the meantime, sauté the onion in a little olive oil until there is a bit of browning on the edges, then add the apple. Cook for just a minute or so to gently start softening the apple.

In a large bowl, combine the onion-apple mixture, the wild rice, zest and juice of the lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste, and divide between the four squash halves.

Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then top with the Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil, and return to the oven and roast until the squash is tender, about five to eight more minutes, depending on size and oven temperature.

These are delicious served with a simply dressed side salad.