Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Green and Orange

Those are the colors of the Autumn CSA bag.  A bit of purple - late plums and some beets, a little red - in the apples.  But green and orange prevail.  It is hearty leaves, squashes and onions.  If the frost ain't here yet - it is peeking at me from around the corner.

(Truffle salt... pipe down.  You could be here, but not everyone has you.  I  know, you are ever so clever with fall stuff.  Another day, you will get more of your due.)

This week's challenge:

delicata squash or sweet potato squash*  (see below for trivia)

The other things I needed to make this AMAZING!**

vinaigrette dressing - (vinegar, mustard, garlic, s&p, and oil)

metal spoon
flipping spatula

salad bowl
good knife & cutting board

1/2 sheet pan/baking sheet
smoked paprika, oil, & salt &

sauté pan, lid, salt & chicken broth

How it went down:

Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds & peel it.  Toss on the baking sheet with oil, salt & smoked paprika.  Put that in the oven for 15 minutes, check for doneness (fork tender?)  Flip to brown the other side, 10 more minutes - remove when the pieces are a bit brown on the edges, and temptingly tender.

Cut the tough green parts off the leeks.  Cut them in half, longways, and rinse to remove any sneaky sand between the leaves.  Place them cut side down in the sauté pan with a little oil over medium heat.  When they start to sizzle and get a little cooked looking, turn them over, cover the bottom of the pan with chicken broth, lower the heat to simmer, clap on the lid for no less than 10 minutes.  (Longer is better, just check and maintain moisture in the pan).  Cook until the leeks are at least tender, and at best have melted.

Wash the arugula.  Tear or chop if they are big leaves.

When the leeks are done, roughly chop them into large bite size pieces, toss them with the arugula and dressing.
Make lovely piles of bitter-sweet salad that are a mix of crunchy & soft, cold and warm.
Top with the warm, crispy-edged, creamy-inside, gently smoky-spicy slices of squash.

Someday, I need to take some pictures before we all dig in.
Why This Works: 

Arugula is bitter, so the savory and sweet flavors of the leeks and spiced squash mellow it out.
The creaminess of the the squash and melted leeks contrasts with the crispness of the raw arugula.
The melted leek and squash are essentially sweet, so the sour, salty and garlic flavors of the dressing contrast with them.

This is a salad of contrasts, but ones that balance and support each other, rather than clashing.

*Delicata trivia

Delicata is an heirloom (up until recently not commercially produced) squash.  It is a small, long squash (as opposed to a ball).  It is usually about the size of 2 large onions side by side.  It's skin is ridged, and always has yellow on its striped skin.  Stripes can be green, orange or cream - and are often a combination of the three colors.

The "sweet potato" designation comes from the particularly dense, sweet, orange flesh - that is pretty close to that of a sweet potato.  In fact I could see using them interchangeably.  The important point being delicata will grow in colder climates where sweet potatoes won't grow.

This squash is delectable, won't last as long as some hard/winter squashes, but does pretty well.  Any recipe with it will work with other sweet, dense fleshed squashes.  Its flavor is subtle and fine, so lends itself to applications where you want to taste the squash - soups, baked squash, salads.


The sweetness of this squash makes a great ingredient to play with.  Pomegranate seeds would be a natural as would balsamic vinegar or oranges (orange marmalade?  That could be interesting....)

Truffle salt is a natural here, so that means sautéed mushrooms would go great - but would need the boost of plenty of garlic, or some glazed onions.

Nuts that combine a sweet and bitter element - pecans, pine nuts or hazelnuts would make great additions as well.

Sweeter indian curries (whether spicy or tame) are a natural with this squash.  Anything tomato-y would overwhelm the squash, but ones that depend heavily on herbs and spices would be excellent.

Baked with lots of thyme or rosemary or sage or oregano... anyway, this squash plays very nice with herbs.

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