When I first heard about “delicata squash,” which I did years ago reading recipes on the wonderful blog 101 Cookbooks, I assumed it was some sort of California oddity. 101 Cookbooks is written by a San Francisco woman (Heidi Swanson), and if you follow any California-based blogs you will know that the abundance of produce available in that part of the world, pretty much year round, is enviable. While we northern folk are surviving on a steady diet of potatoes and beets, Californians are plucking permissions and meyer lemons, and eating kardoons, kumquats and quince. Lucky buggers.
I passed over Heidi’s delicata-containing recipes for a couple of years at least, until one day I wandered into a favourite produce shop in early fall and caught—out of the corner of my eye—an unfamiliar-looking oblong, ridged, yellow and green gourd. Delicata! After which I (inevitably) spotted delicata everywhere. In the farmers’ markets, in my CSA delivery and even at the mega grocery store down the street. (You know those piles of pretty gourds that show up in the grocery store every autumn—yes, the delicatas are in there!)
If you haven’t tried a delicata before, I insist that you pick up a couple of them as soon as you can. Emphasis on the soon because, as squash growing seasons go, the delicata season is a relatively short one. Now you see them; soon you won’t.
And even more emphasis on the insist because, truly, there are few vegetables as wonderful as this one, and certainly no squash that comes close. I have actually witnessed the Bean (my 4 year old daughter) squeal with delight upon learning that delicata squash was on our dinner menu. “Oh you are making my favourite favourite squash!!!” she exclaimed (yes, I swear she said that).
The flesh is sweet and buttery, and becomes especially so when roasted with some olive oil and maple syrup as I’ve done with this recipe. And, unlike delicata’s hardier cousins (butternuts and acorns, for example), the skin is soft and completely edible. Which, for anyone who has ever risked their fingertips removing the peel from a knobbly gourd, is a very big deal. You don’t need to peel a delicata squash; just halve it lengthwise, run a small spoon down the centre of each half to remove the seeds, then slice into thin half moons.
When sliced thinly and roasted this way, the delicata quickly becomes brown and crispy, and deserved of the “oven fries” moniker. We like to eat these “fries” as a side dish with roasted or grilled meat, chicken or fish, invariably fighting over the last few pieces (hint: you might want to make a double batch). But it’s also wonderful in fall salads (kale, toasted almonds, crumbled feta or goat cheese, avocado and the dressing from this salad recipe is an impressive combination that deserves a post all its own) or tossed with lightly sauteed dandelion greens, some sherry vinegar, shaved parmesan and salt and pepper.
Be warned that delicata has a shorter shelf life than most winter squash. Store it in the fridge or a cool dark pantry, and use it up within a couple of weeks.
- 1 large or 2 small delicata squash
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 1 garlic clove, crushed or minced
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (plus additional to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the ends off of the delicata squash, halve it lengthwise, scrape the seeds out (using a small spoon) and slice each half into thin half moons.
- Combine the olive oil, maple syrup, garlic and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl, then add the delicata and toss until it is evenly coated with the oil mixture.
- Arrange the squash in a single layer (some overlap is inevitable) on the parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once about halfway through the cooking time, until the squash starts to turn brown and crispy.
- Sprinkle with additional salt to taste.