BitterSweet

An Obsession with All Things Handmade and Home-Cooked


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Delicata Delicacy

Have you ever seen a better vegetable for stuffing than the humble delicata squash? Each perfect yellow and green-striped edible tube becomes an ideal vessel for every sort of filling imaginable, no matter how you cut or cook it. I’m no stranger to the concept, but all sorts of inspiration has steered my seasonings in an entirely different direction since those first filled squash emerged from the oven.

Allow me to introduce to you a prime candidate for your new Thanksgiving main dish, replete with a very posh-sounding beluga lentil filling. Sparkling like legume caviar within their roasted golden delicata containers, these particular lentils eschew the typical autumnal spices found on every festive table in favor of more worldly flavors. Infused with an aromatic blend of cumin, mustard seeds, and jalapeno, this entry is guaranteed to spice up the traditional feast. Spiced rather than spicy, it’s designed to suit a wide range of palates, subtle enough not to offend those who appreciate less heat but want abundant umami to savor on their plates.

Complimenting that distinctive piquancy is a creamy cashew-based raita, replete with cooling mint leaves and crisp diced cucumber. Don’t even dream of skipping it; that rich final flourish ties together the meal, elevating the dish into something truly memorable. It’s the kind of surprisingly easy dinner that eaters will rave about for years to come, but by all means, don’t just save it for an annual event. Stuffed delicata are delightful all autumn and winter, if not beyond those seasonal boundaries, too.

Like all the best Thanksgiving dishes, stuffed delicata are rock stars for prepping in advance and waiting patiently until their solo arrives. Bake and stuff them as written, cover the casserole dish with foil, and simply reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10 – 20 minutes when the party begins.

Beluga Lentil-Stuffed Delicata Squash

2 Medium Delicata Squashes (About 1 Pound Each)

Lentil Stuffing:

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 Shallots, Finely Diced
1 Jalapeno, Seeded and Finely Diced
1 1/2 Teaspoons Whole Cumin Seeds
1 1/2 Teaspoons Whole Mustard Seeds
1 Cup Dry Beluga Lentils
2 Cups Vegetable Broth
2/3 Cup Full-Fat Coconut Milk
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 – 1 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Cashew Raita:

1 Cup Raw Cashews Pieces, Soaked for About 4 Hours
2 Tablespoons Fresh Mint Leaves, Roughly Chopped
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Water
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
2 – 3 Persian Cucumbers, Finely Diced

Although it’s the last addition to your stuffed squashes, it would be wise to prepare the cashew raita first so that it’s ready to go when you are. Thoroughly drain your soaked cashews and toss them in your blender along with the chopped mint, lemon juice, water, and salt. Puree, pausing to scrape down the sides of the canister with a spatula as needed, until completely silky-smooth. This process may take longer if you use a lower-powered model, but stick with it; that creamy texture is important for successful raita. Once perfectly velvety, stir in the cucumber pieces by hand. Store in an air-tight container and keep refrigerated prior to serving.

For the filling, heat the olive oil in a medium pot over moderate heat before tossing in the diced shallots and jalapeno. Saute until translucent before introducing the cumin and mustard seeds next. Cook until the vegetables are lightly caramelized and the entire mixture is highly aromatic. Add the lentils and broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes when the lentils become tender. Add the coconut milk, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep the pot partially covered and simmer for an additional 5 – 10 minutes, until the final liquid addition has been absorbed. Cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, as the lentils cook, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cut both squash in half lengthwise and scoop out (but reserve) seeds. Place each half with the cut sides down on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a fork easily pierces the flesh. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before handling.

Reduce the heat to 250, toss the reserved seeds with just a splash of oil and a pinch of salt, and roast for just 10 – 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent them from burning. Once golden and crisp, let them cool completely.

To complete the dish, flip the roasted delicata squashes up to turn them into edible boats and spoon the warm lentils inside. Serve the cashew raita alongside for guests to top their squashes as desired, and finish with a sprinkle of roasted seeds.

Makes 4 Main Dish Servings; Cut the Halves in Half for 8 Side Dish Servings

Printable Recipe


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Talking Turkey

One week and one day are all that separates us from the big Thanksgiving feast, even though I feel a sense of déjà vu as soon as the traditional sides and sauces start pouring out of the kitchen. Cooking a separate feast for editorial photography assignments as far back as September or October, I’ve typically had my fill (and then some) of all the trimmings by the time November finally rolls around. Though cooking the yearly Thanksgiving meal a month or two ahead of the scheduled date takes some getting used to, it works out in my favor; The official family celebration can become rather hectic even without me jockeying for space in the overcrowded kitchen, so it’s nice not to feel pressured to make “go all out” and cook up something grand.

The center piece is always the biggest concern, whether trying to make a turkey replica or go a new route, but come the last Thursday in November, you can generally find me sitting down to a family feast with ye olde traditional veggie burger on my plate. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything on that specific date, having already gorged on gravy and potatoes well in advance. However, it is nice to put in a bit of additional effort and make something perhaps more seasonally appropriate. Still keeping it simple, stuffed veggies rather than a stuffed roast are the ideal main dish for a laid-back feast.

Delicata, my favorite little squash, is ideal for stuffing and roasting. Bearing thin, edible skin, there’s no need to peel; just hollow out, fill, and bake. Sizes of this gourd vary wildly, so for this particular recipe, opt for smaller, more manageable ones. To make it even easier, go ahead and cut them lengthwise like little edible boats. The seeds will be less of a hassle to reach and scrape out, and they tend to bake a bit faster, too. Serve up one of these beauties with some roasted onions, perhaps, and a generous pour of mushroom creme gravy, and you will certainly have something else to be thankful for this year.

“Ricotta”-Stuffed Delicata

1 – 2 Small Delicata Squash (Depending on the size of the squashes and how full you stuff them)

10 Ounces Super-Firm or Pressed Tofu*
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Teaspoons Soy Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder

1/2 Cup Diced Cremini or Button Mushrooms
1/2 Cup Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Thoroughly Drained
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (Leaves Only), Chopped

1/4 Cup Pine Nuts or Chopped Cashews, Divided

*You can start with 1 pound of extra firm tofu and press for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once the extra water has been drained off, it should be around the same weight (but it’s not critical if it’s slightly over or under.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking dish with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Set aside.

Slice your squash in half either lengthwise or width-wise, and use a thin metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and guts. Cut a small sliver off the bottoms of each half so that they can sit in the pan without falling or sliding. Arrange in your baking dish so that there’s plenty of space between them.

In your food processor, place the tofu, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic and onion powder. Pulse to combine, until the mixture is mostly smooth and creamy, but still with a bit of texture. No need to go crazy here. Fold in the chopped mushrooms, spinach, parsley, and about 3 tablespoons of the pine nuts or cashews until well combined.

Spoon the “ricotta” mixture into your delicata as desired, and top with the remaining nuts. Lightly spritz or brush the exteriors of the squash all over with olive oil, and pop them into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the squash are fork-tender.

Makes 2 – 4 Servings

Printable Recipe

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