Hard winter squash, from pumpkin to butternut, are enormously nourishing — an excellent source of vitamin A, C, and fiber in particular. But often when I spy these colorful, anti-oxidant-rich winter beauties at the market, and imagine myself back in my kitchen trying to wrestle the rock-hard flesh and awkward shape into a cooked dish, I walk on by. Winter squash makes me tired.
Delicata, however, is one squash variety that’s a little easier on the cook. It’s become a wintertime staple in our house, and one my kids quite fancy. Smaller than most varieties, delicata have a sweet flesh and a thin skin that is perfectly edible.
My method for preparing them involves nothing more than splitting the squash down the center, scooping the seeds, dotting the insides with butter and maple syrup, and baking them until tender. No need to fuss with a peeler or strong-arm the flesh into fat cubes. If you want to take it a step further, they make an excellent vessel for stuffing.
Roasted Delicata Squash with Maple Syrup and Thyme
The skin of this squash is entirely edible, though you may find it preferable to eat the tender insides. Figure about a half squash per person, although smaller appetites may do with a quarter of a squash.
3 whole delicata squash
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
6 small sprigs fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Wash the squash. Use a large, sharp knife to slice off the stem. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and string, discard. Set the squash cut-side-up on a baking sheet.
Put a dab of butter in the center of each squash. Drizzle the maple syrup into the cavity of each squash. Sprinkle salt and freshly ground black pepper over the flesh of the squash. Set a small sprig of thyme in each half.
Bake until the squash is very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. The time will vary depending on the size of the squash, but will range from 35 to 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and serve.
Makes 6 servings.