Easy to Cook, Sweet and Buttery Delicata Squash

Delicata squash are easily my favorite of the winter keepers and there is a stack of about twenty of them in one corner of my bedroom where I keep them because it is cool (low fifties most of the time) and dry. They did very well this year, having set fruit that ripened before the virus that killed off the leaves had time to get a hold on the plants.

But first, before we get onto the squash, I want to say what a great pleasure it was to meet several of you readers in Ellsworth on Saturday at a signing for my book Maine Home Cooking at Rooster Brother. I had some terrific conversations about food, cooking, and life. And Pamela and Camille at the store could not have been more helpful and kind. Plus, for samples, Pamela made Cheddar Crisps that appeared in this column a while back and are in the book, substituting Parmesan cheese for some of the cheddar, and they were so delicious. The Parmesan is a good idea and worth imitating. If you kept that recipe or bought the book, go pencil Parmesan in the recipe on page 106. Many thanks to all who showed up and said hello.

Now squash. Delicata’s are the perfect two-person squash. The creamy skin with deep green stripes is pretty, and the interior is rich yellow.

Cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and bake it open side down on a lightly oiled pan for about thirty minutes in a moderate oven. If you want, put butter and maple syrup or a sprinkle of brown sugar in the hollow to melt before serving.

Because the squash is ridged, when I cut it crosswise and pull out the seeds, I end up with lovely scalloped rings that I cook on a fry pan with just enough olive or vegetable oil to keep them from sticking. It makes a pretty and perfect side dish. If you want to, you can fill the rings with green peas when you serve it. Hint: Cut the squash in half, and using a melon baller, scoop out the seeds in both halves, then cut off half inch thick slices.

I like to stuff them. I demonstrated this, in fact, at the Harvest Festival in Bangor last month. You might have been there! I cut them lengthwise, bake them face down, and flip them over to fill with whatever I have on hand. A mixture of some flavorful meat like sausage, ham or bacon, with onions, red peppers, corn, and possibly rice, or tiny pasta, topped with cheese, or not, is a main dish. Just leave out the meat if you cook for vegetarians. Heck, leave out anything you don’t like, and add anything that you do that will fit.

P.S. I will be at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport at 1:30 on December 15 as part of the museum’s Keeping Warm program. I’ll be talking about keeping warm with Maine cooking. Historically, we Mainers have been very good at cooking to keep warm—we did it at sea, in lumber camps, and then back home, too. Come to hear how. Maine Home Cooking will be available, and I’ll sign copies, too.

Baked Stuffed Delicata
1 Delicata squash, cut lengthwise, seeds removed
Oil
Bulk sausage, a couple slices of bacon, or a quarter cup or so finely-chopped ham
Half an onion, finely chopped
A clove of garlic, minced
Quarter of a large red pepper, finely-chopped
Two large spoons full of cooked rice, orzo, or couscous
Cheddar, mozzarella, or jack cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a baking pan and place the squash halves on it, cut side down. Bake for about thirty minutes or until the squash feel soft when you press it. Meanwhile, cook the sausage or bacon, and crumble it. Sauté the onion, pepper, and garlic in a little oil until they soften. Add the cooked meat and rice or pasta, mix well, and set aside. When the squash is baked, turn it over and fill with the meat and vegetable mixture, top with the grated cheese and put back into the oven for ten minutes until it is all heated through and cheese is melted.

Makes two main dish servings or four side-dish servings.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.