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Delicata: Best. Squash. Ever.

Delicata!

I mentioned in the last post that we spent some time with our friends Clayton and Kendra at Fail Better Farm near Belfast, Maine last week. They fed us ridiculously well the entire time, but there was one new veggie with which I fell hopelessly in love: the delicata squash. Run, do not walk, to your friendly local CSA, farmers' market, or food coop, and pick up about a hundred of these posthaste!

My friends, this is the best squash I have eaten in my life. The texture is not too dry and not too squishy. You can eat the skin. And best of all, it's super, super sweet and flavorful. Upon first tasting, I asked Clayton how much brown sugar he'd seasoned it with, and was shocked to hear that there was none. The pleasing brown ring along the cut was created by natural sugars in the squash on roasting. Like acorn squash, except so. much. better. And also, they're pretty. The photo above is from the hoop house at the farm. Delicata, you get an A++

And, though it's not the best photo because I kind of mandhandled it on the way out of the oven, here is one we roasted when we returned to Brooklyn:

Maine 2008 064

We brushed them with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt, then roasted them face-down in the oven at 350 for about an hour. Here are a few other things you can do with delicata:

Delicata and Celery Root Puree from Chez Panisse Vegetables
dandelion salad with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and roasted delicata squash
Autumn Minestrone from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Specials

And here are some other farm beauties that were packed off to New York with us:

Maine 2008 060

Thanks Clayton, Kendra, Megan, and little Graham. We love you guys!

UPDATE: No sooner did I post yesterday than I received this recipe in my weekly Splendid Table email, Weeknight Kitchen. Since it isn't online yet, I thought I'd share it here! Click through below to see it.

Dear Friends,

Imagine this: the scent of baking bread, simmering soup, and sauteing apples. Talk about looking forward to coming home to dinner.

This soup is ready in under an hour and gets better for hanging out in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The bread is a winner, coming together fast and baking while the soup cooks. Guinness is good in this, but any full-bodied ale will be a success.

Winter Squash Soup with Sauteed Apples and Stout Batter Bread
Reprinted with permission from Bon Appetit, Y’All: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis, copyright 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.

Serves 4 to 6

You’ll find many types of winter squash in your produce department. For this sweet-savory soup, reach past the standard acorn and butternut varieties for something new like carnival, delicata, or kabocha for a different feel and flavor.

* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 shallot, finely chopped
* 1 carrot, finely chopped
* 1 stalk celery, very finely chopped
* Bouquet garni (3 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, 2 sprigs of thyme, 10 whole black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth)
* 3 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
* 3 cups chicken stock or low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
* Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced
* 1 sprig thyme
* 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
* 1 teaspoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
* Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1. To prepare the soup, in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-low heat until foaming. Add the shallot, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.

2. Add the bouquet garni, squash, and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, to cook the apples, in a skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the diced apple and remaining sprig of thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple is tender and lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

4. To finish the soup, remove the bouquet garni and discard. In the Dutch oven, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Or ladle the soup into a blender and puree until smooth a little at a time. Leave it coarse and chunky if you prefer a more rustic soup or puree until smooth for a more elegant soup. Add the cream, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

5. To serve, ladle into warm bowls and garnish with the sautéed apples. Serve immediately.

Stout Batter Bread
Reprinted with permission from Bon Appetit, Y’All: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking by Virginia Willis, copyright 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.

Makes one 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf

Other than sharing the quick bread gene, this beer batter bread doesn’t have much of a Southern heritage. For minimum effort and maximum results, it’s hard to beat. This takes the phrase “dump and stir” to a whole new level. Different beers produce breads with different flavors and textures. This recipe calls for stout, producing a bread somewhat dark in color with a slightly heavy flavor. It goes well with a hearty stew or pot roast. Lighter ale produces a lighter loaf and would be more appropriate with milder dishes such as this soup.

* 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the loaf pan
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tablespoon baking powder
* 3 tablespoons sugar
* 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
* 1 (12-ounce) bottle stout, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush one 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan with some of the butter.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Add the beer and 2 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter, stirring just until combined. (The batter will be somewhat lumpy.)

3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, then invert onto the rack to cool until warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

LYNNE'S TIPS

A tea-brewing ball is a good substitute for cheesecloth when making a bouquet garni. Just stuff the herbs and peppercorns into the ball, close, secure the latch and you’re good to go.

When making the bread, combine the dry ingredients well before adding the beer to make sure the baking powder is evenly dispersed throughout the flour. The beer may foam up when you add it to the flour mixture. If so, add it slowly, stir a bit, and then add more. The bread is best when it’s fresh.

Posted by jess at October 14, 2008 8:42 AM | TrackBack
Comments

We grew delicatas for the first time this year, but haven't tasted them yet. I'd planned on trying them for supper tonight - now I'm REALLY excited!

Posted by: gayle at October 14, 2008 9:27 AM

Those look so delicious! I have to admit, I'm not always sure what to do with some of the different squashes that are suddenly available, and these look great and so easy! I think I'll be trying these out.

Posted by: Julie at October 14, 2008 9:52 AM

I've seen these at our farmer's market and had wondered about them. Will pick up post haste and try your recipes!

Posted by: Debbie at October 14, 2008 10:03 AM

Ooh, I'm completely obsessed with squash right now--what are you going to make with those mini pumpkin-esque green & white ones?

Posted by: sixoneseven at October 14, 2008 11:20 AM

Yup! Squash time again! God I love this time of year. I will have to try these as I've never heard of them before. :) Now I just have to trick my husband into eating them, as he has long ago decided that he hates ALL squash :P

Posted by: Preita at October 14, 2008 11:58 AM

I made a pureed soup with delicata squash this week that was So. Good. I put it cut-side down in a roasting pan, along with some carrots and onions and then put an inch or so of chicken broth in the pan. I cooked it all up for a about an hour, and pureed the veggies and the broth all up, threw in some sage and topped it with some bacon. Oh. Yum.

Posted by: Liz K. at October 14, 2008 2:19 PM

I LOVE squash. I will have to pick some up!

Posted by: paisley penguin at October 14, 2008 9:34 PM

You know, I must say I'm not a huge fan of vegetables being sweet, but I'll keep an eye out for them. I get an organic produce box delivered very two weeks.

Posted by: Melissa A. at October 15, 2008 8:31 AM

what a gorgeous fall feast!

Posted by: rose at October 15, 2008 11:25 AM

I love delicata! I just discovered it recently and have been buying a ton at the farmer's market. I've been peeling it and cutting it into rings and then brushing with olive oil and cooking in a frying pan. It's quicker than baking, though more labor-intensive, and is so so tasty!

Posted by: threegoodrats at October 15, 2008 8:40 PM

Wow, the veggies looks so beautiful and tasty!

Posted by: Elena at October 15, 2008 10:17 PM

Well, I've been reading your blog for about 4 years now and I've never taken the step of commenting...I'm a lurker! But I have to jump in on the delicata discussion. I discovered them last year through my CSA and fell in love. Since they are so sweet, I've experimented making desserts with them - my favorite is like a pumpkin pie filling/custard, baked in custard cups...yum. Also, the squash is delicious mixed with a bit of cream and honey - mix it smooth and it's almost like a pudding. My three-year old son loves it.

Posted by: Rachel at October 15, 2008 11:26 PM

so, so hungry reading this... can't wait to roast my first squash soon.

Posted by: amisha at October 19, 2008 12:42 PM

Thanks for turning me on to Delicata Squash. I bought four, and roasted them with golden beets, fennel, baby creamer potatoes and carrots, and then used my infusion blender to make a pureed soup. One of the best soups ever, which I topped with croutons and a grating of Parmigiano. If I hadn't read your blog, I would have still thought of those squash as ornamental gourds. Thank you!

Posted by: John in Portland, OR at October 20, 2008 1:11 AM

I found them at our farmer's market and will bake them sometime this week! Thanks for the recommendation.

Posted by: Cassy at October 20, 2008 10:30 AM

mmm...that roasted squash looks heavenly. Fall is my favorite cooking time.

We've been obsessing over pumpkins here, with pumpkin curry and pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread. So delicious!

Posted by: Jemima at October 22, 2008 5:46 PM

I'm really happy I found it thank you very much

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