Have I ever told you about my husband’s international food rule? It’s something his parents came up with when he was a young child to encourage him to eat everything except for one type of food of his choice (and he could change his one food once a year). Well, my husband’s consistent choice all through his childhood was squash and, while he has since found out that there isn’t really such a thing as an international food rule, to this day he and for some genetically probably easy-to-explain reason also his male offspring just don’t like that sweet winter produce that lightens up soups, salads, mashed side dishes and gorgeous pies at this time of year. In an attempt to woo my family over to the “other side”, I’m dedicating this week’s post to squash, and to be more specific, to one of the finest of them all, the delicata squash. Come and cook with us!
Squash comes in either summer (unripe) or winter (ripe) varieties and includes many different types. The best known ones are zucchini for the summer, and butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash for the winter. Before moving to the US, and particularly California, I wasn’t too familiar with the lesser known ones like kabocha (chestnut-like), turban or delicata (sweet-potato-like), just to name a few. What makes this latter one so wonderful, is that you can eat the skin, it is easily chopped and sliced, and has an absolutely delicious flavor. Furthermore, it doesn’t require roasting or baking to soften its flesh as it can even be eaten raw.
From a nutritional standpoint, delicata squash is high in vitamin A, vitamin C as well as beta-cryptooxanthin, a carotenoid linked to lower risks of lung and prostate cancer, as well as to improved joint health. Even better is if you keep the skin on, which is packed with additional fiber, other vitamins and minerals. One thing to note is that recent agricultural trials have shown that squash is an excellent plant to help in remediation of contaminated soil. What that means is that this plant is very good at absorbing unwanted contaminants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Even if the squash is planted as a food crop some of the transfer from the soil will happen so it’s best to steer clear of this issue by purchasing certified organic squash which are less likely to contain undesirable levels of contaminants such as PAHs.
The recipes for delicata squash are endless, and I have tried quite a few in my dedicated attempt to win the battle against my children’s genetic predisposition. So far, results have been mixed, and as long as there are plenty of other vegetables in the minestrone soup or the vegetable risotto, the boys won’t notice. Straight up roasted with some cinnamon is the way I love it and as a risotto is the way I make it most often. How do you like your delicata? Come and cook with us!