Friday, September 22, 2006

First in Class

I received a drive by vegetable-love package a few weeks ago as I was getting ready to leave of all places, my physical therapist’s office. To my surprise and delight a largish Hefty Ziploc bag full of summer’s bountiful parsley, basil, tomatoes and delicata squash landed in my lap while Judy, gardener and all-around woman extraordinaire made the nimble pass and delivery. With good fortune I have been enjoying the final offerings of summer and the early fruits of fall. The fragrant herbs found instant home within a pesto fortified with creamy sweet ricotta and shavings of lemon zest. The green tomato discovered purpose and placement within a riotous stuffing for peppers. The sole delicata however demanded a different kind of consideration and being thicker skinned than the summer squash variety, waiting was an option which I gladly took advantage of.

The Delicata and Kabocha are two of my most favorite winter squash. They tend to be sweeter than their counterparts but texture is where they make their departure from each other. Kabocha (kah-BOH-cha) is somewhat dry and dense, a marriage between a sweet potato and chestnut. It is intensely sweet, honeyed with a deep vibrant orange color to the flesh. Delicata squash is moist and melting and somewhat creamy to the palate. It is much more finessed and delicate which is part of what calls out to me. Not only is the skin handsomely decorated with subtle mottling and striped grooves; it is thin enough to be eaten once cooked, making food preparation a cinch. I have struggled cutting through one too many thick rinds to definitely say that there is little grace in wrestling with a recalcitrant vegetable. Instead, the delicata or bohemian squash has slight weight to it, snug within the confines of a palm. It is a cheery lemon torpedo with British racing green striations running down the length of it. There is something earnest and endearing about it, a huge show of effort within a small figure like a young schoolchild ready to rise to the head of the class. It is sprightly and charming, infused with a winsome happy presence and now has the distinction of being the first show of autumn display within my kitchen. This squash is delicately proportioned adorning serving platters with a geometric display of scalloped rings and semi-circles. Not to mention that a hollowed and stuffed half, whether bowl or boat is elegantly diminutive without being too stingy. Contrast this with a stuffed acorn squash that would dominate a plate, leaving no room for balance or variety. When I come to think of it, in all the ways that I approach this favorite fall offering, it always comes up at the head of the class. Like most produce when in-season, there is very little that needs to be done with this squash. Being that this was the first of many that will be consumed this year; I decided to simply roast the delicata. To do this, slice of both ends and discard. Continue slicing the squash into ¼” thick rings. Once cut, pull out the seeds and stringy matter. Place in an oven proof pan and give everything a good splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, and toss. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until squash is tender and edges are somewhat caramelized. This dish can be embellished in many ways, but this way- straight up, sweet-n-salty, earthy and slightly chewy is so satisfying.

6 comments:

Lis said...

As always I just lose myself in your writing. Another great post, both interesting and informative as I've never heard of the two squash you talk about. I will be on the look out the next time I hit the farmer's market so that I, too, can experience them. Thanks =)

Callipygia said...

lis, I'm so happy you are enjoying your reads! I hope you find the two at your market, let me know what you think- but be forewarned the Kabocha is one tough nut to crack.

miragee said...

I might sound ignorant, but I thought a squash was something similar to pumpkins. Now I know I am very wrong:-).

I am trying to imagine the taste between sweet potatoes and chestnuts. I eat the former quite often, especially lately. Yet a combination of the two...Do you make desserts with squashes too?

Callipygia said...

miragree- you are right, a clarification. Squash is of the plant genus Cucubita. It is generally split into 2 groups: summer (like zucchini,crooknecks) and winter(delicata, kabocha, pumpkin). So a pumpkin is a type of winter squash. In the US people definitely eat squash as a dessert, mainly in pie or sweet breads. The kabocha is sort of similar to asian sweet bean- adzuki paste. oh probably a dangerous comparison..

jbird said...

ooohhh...i once made a very very bad flan w. kabocha, too grainy.
but it could have been me...
no wrong can come from such a cute looking squash....
the whole thing unmolded like some bad pumpkin casserole. i forced myself to eat it and convinced others it was good and threw the whole thing away after 2 days.
others ate it just to be polite.

Callipygia said...

jbird, so sad a kabocha disaster? I guess a flan is such a delicate thing, that the kabocha is too assertive- pity. I love using it in place of pumpkin, for pie.