by Corin Hirsch
In the days before I was acquainted with winter squashes, their bin looked like a formidable landscape of oranges and greens. I had no idea which ones to grab or what to do with them once I was home.
Eventually, I schooled myself in the ways of these colorful nutrient bombs, making dishes such as creamy butternut squash soup and broiled acorn squash with butter. I also learned that Delicata squashes are — as their name suggests — the most tender and delicious of all (at least to me) and that you can eat their thin skins, a definite draw.
Delicatas are like autumnal zebras of squash, with long, forest-green stripes on an oblong yellow body. Slice into one, and you'll find soft, pale-orange flesh. Like their cousins, they're hard to ruin — you can fry them, roast them, grill them, boil them or even bash them with a mallet. They'll still beguile you with their subtly sweet flavor — and probably get gooey and caramelized in the process.
Since their flesh is sugary, topping these squash with herbs or salty cheeses makes for a tapestry of flavors in your mouth, and roasting them concentrates their flavor. Some like to roast squash with maple syrup, but I find this too treacly — so I use olive oil, sea salt, pepper and garlic, then sprinkle them with whatever might be on hand. This week, that was fresh parsley and Doe's Leap feta. The brininess of the cheese chafes well against the sweet flesh, and parsley and lemon juice brighten the whole thing up. If you don't relish chewy brown bits of roasted garlic (I think they add texture, sort of like garlic nuts), you can use whole garlic cloves (skin and all) and discard before plating.
Delicata Squash with Parsley & Feta
1 squash per person
1-3 garlic cloves, depending on your proclivities
Coarse sea salt & pepper
A splash of extra-virgin olive oil
A hearty cube of feta cheese
A handful of parsley
A fresh lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the skin of the squash well, as you'll be eating this later. Pat dry, then slice about 1/2 inch off each end and halve the squash lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, then slice each half again lengthwise, so you're left with four quarters for each squash. Drizzle some olive oil into a flat roasting pan, then load the squash parts on top, skin side down. Drizzle oil over their tops (don't drench them — just a few drops on each) and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and slivered or chopped garlic. Roast until bits of char begin to appear around the squash's edges, about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, coarsely chop some fresh parsley, about a tablespoon for each squash. Once the squash is roasted, remove to a plate and crumble fresh feta over each quarter, to taste. Sprinkle parsley on the top and spritz each with fresh lemon juice. Serve with some roasted meat (I had lamb) and a salad, and maybe a glass of Zweigelt or Saison.