Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Maple-Roasted Delicata Squash and Spinach Catalan-Style

If you're like me, you have no idea what delicata squash is.  But we ended up with a couple of random squash from the CSA and had to figure out first what it was and then how to cook it.  So I handed a squash to Alex and told him to start Googling.  A few minutes and one Wikipedia entry on squash varieties later, Alex told me that the squash we had been given was a sweet potato squash aka delicata squash.  And just for the record, there are way more varieties of squash out there than I realized!  I mean, who has ever heard of turban squash?  Anyway, we decided to simply roast the delicata squash as if it were a butternut squash with maple syrup, butter, and brown sugar.  As with roasting butternut squash, you end up with an amazingly flavorful layer of squash, with a bland layer down below that never came into contact with the maple syrup mixture.  Alex called it the "Tale of Two Squashes."  Yes, my husband is a dork.  But that's ok, because so am I.  It takes one to know one I guess.  Back to the squash.  Those bites you get where the sugar and syrup formed a nice caramelized crust on the squash are simply amazing.  I highly recommend using just a pinch of cayenne pepper on the squash because I think it really makes the flavors come together.  Otherwise you would just end up with a really sweet squash dish, without any complexity to it.

To go with the squash we decided to cook up the spinach that also came from our CSA.  We have a recipe for Spinach Catalan-Style from Spain: A Culinary Road Trip by Mario Batali that I really enjoy because it is tasty, easy, and best of all, it comes together in minutes.  I really enjoy the combination of the buttery pine nuts, the sweet currants, and the fresh sauteed spinach.  The first time I made the recipe I was a little skeptical that it didn't contain garlic or onions.  I quickly realized that it didn't need either.  This is probably one of the quickest and easiest side dishes in our repertoire.

Recipe after the jump!

Maple-Roasted Delicata Squash

2 Delicata squash
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into quarters
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Using a strong knife, cut each squash in half lengthwise. Spoon out seeds and stringy bits in the center of each half, just like you do when you are making a jack o'lantern. Place squash halves in a rimmed baking pan, cut side up. Add butter, brown sugar, s&p, and cayenne. Drizzle squash with maple syrup. Add a little water, about 1/4-inch, to the bottom of the baking pan to help the squash steam and to keep it from drying out. 

Squash is done after it is nice and tender, which should take about an hour.  Remove from oven and serve squash halves with melted butter mixture inside the cavity.

Spinach Catalan-Style
Spain:  A Culinary Road Trip
By Mario Batali with Gwynneth Paltrow

2 tbsp evoo
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp dried currants
1 large bunch spinach, washed and spun mostly dry

Heat evoo in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add nuts and currants and stir for a minute or two, until the nuts start to brown.  Add the spinach, in batches if necessary, and stir and cook until the spinach is nicely wilted, 3-5 minutes.  Season to taste with s&p.


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