Monday, November 24, 2014

Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant, Fennel, and Apple Relish

I love squash with a fervent ardor. If you see a girl at the Greenmarket trying to transport a giant gourd under each arm muttering to herself that it's really time to switch from 3 lb weights to 5 lb weights at the gym—but grinning like an idiot as she ungracefully continues the struggle—it's probably me. Hey, it's a labor of love! Because once I finally lug those child-sized cucurbitas home, that's when the real work begins. Peeling, seeding, chopping, and roasting for a minimum of 40 minutes—many times over an hour—until it's finally ready to eat. No Whole Foods, I will not give in and by your overpriced, pre-cut, time-saving containers—I treasure those extra three dollars, thank you very much.

Like any regular vegetable zealot weirdo, I have OCD tendencies about the preparation of my squash. Butternut gets cubed and roasted, often added to a chunky minestrone or pureed for a soup of it's own. Acorn is sliced into wedges, drizzled generously with maple syrup and eaten just so as a snack or side. Spaghetti squash is the go-to pasta substitute, heaped under a thick tomato sauce or winter stew.

But then I discovered a game-changer: delicata squash, featured in this Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant, Fennel, and Apple Relish recipe.  Similar in size to a kirby cucumber, these guys can easily be bought by the half-dozen without undertaking an accidental arm work out.  Furthermore, they don't need to be peeled—or even roasted! In this recipe, the delicata are cut in half-inch rounds and pan-sautéed for a total of 4 minutes. Unstrenuous squash: who knew!

Because delicata is cylinder-shaped, it sliced into rounds, which transforms into rings after the seeds are scooped out. The shape is super fun, like onion rings or dried apple rings or gummy rings, and make for quite the artistic presentation too: while the recipe is deceivingly simple, the presentation is artistically beautiful; echoing the flavors' sophistication.

Grounding the dish are the squash rings; earthy and heat-kissed, perfectly bronzed and blistered. Lime zest and juice add an unexpected but welcomed tang, while the cider-based relish is juicy and thick; dissolving like candy on the tip of your tongue. This side will standout anywhere, so consider a delicata debut on Thursday's Thanksgiving table!

Crispy Delicata Rings with Currant, Fennel, and Apple Relish (By TheWimpyVegetarian)
Serves 4

Crispy Delicata Rings:
  • 2 delicata squash
  • salt
  • olive oil
  • 1 lime
1. Slice the ends off of the squash. Slice into ½" rings and remove the seeds with a spoon. Reserve the seeds for another use or roast them with some cayenne pepper, salt, and cumin and sprinkle over the finished dish.
2. Lightly salt the squash and let sit for 30 minutes. Completely dry off with paper towels, removing the salt. Heat enough oil to coat a sauté pan over medium high heat. Lightly salt the squash rings with fresh salt and add them to the pan. They should sizzle the moment they hit the pan. Don't crowd them or they'll steam more than they'll brown. Sauté until lightly browned (about 2 minutes per side).
3. Remove to a plate and add lime zest and juice (use grate and juice of ½ lime per each delicata).
4. Top with the Currant, Fennel and Apple Relish and serve warm. Optional: add spiced roasted squash seeds or fennel fronds.

Currant, Fennel and Apple Relish:
  • ½ cup dried currants (can substitute raisins)
  • ½ crisp apple, peeled, seeded, finely diced (e.g. Pink Lady)
  • 1 fennel bulb, outer layer removed, finely diced
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon Calvados (can substitute regular brandy)
1. Combine all ingredients in a small pot and simmer over medium low heat until the cider is reduced by half. Strain and sprinkle over the Crispy Delicata Rings.

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