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Delicata squash with pomegranate seeds livens up the Thanksgiving table

There will be turkey, as always. Mashed potatoes, something with cranberry, and all the other usual suspects, though I hope there's room on your Thanksgiving table for something new.

In my Spanglish home in Miami, we always have turkey and creamy mashed potatoes, but the rest of the holiday spread fluctuates from year to year. Sometimes it's a little more traditional and sometimes it leans more in the direction of Nicaraguan food with taquitos and gallopinto.

This year will be different in another way: For the first time, I'm bringing home Danny for the holidays. This will be our first Thanksgiving together in Miami.

By now, he's well-versed in the food of my family, and this Thanksgiving is a big opportunity for us to cook for them. He's planning to make a traditional glazed ham but we also wanted a colorful side dish to brighten the table, preferably featuring a vegetable my family isn't familiar with.

With the weather finally cooling down in Florida, a winter squash seemed like the way to go. Roasting is one of my favorite ways to cook winter squashes, and the first that came to mind is delicata squash.

I'm not sure why delicata squash isn't as popular as the bulbous and ubiquitous butternut. Delicata is easier to handle and more flavorful. To serve delicata squash, you don't need to (and shouldn't) peel the skin, which is delicious and crispy when cooked. Delicata also looks a lot more festive than other winter squashes with its pretty scalloped edges with green and orange stripes.

For crunch and color, I added pomegranate seeds that look like brilliant red jewels. And if the potatoes get cream and butter, then this squash would need some cheese. We tried Parmesan and crumbles of blue cheese and enjoyed both. Goat cheese would also work here, and you can use the one your family likes best.

The seeds of the delicata squash are excellent for roasting and sprinkling over the roasted rings of squash, though I used pumpkin seeds for their color and a slight preference for their flavor. This side comes together fairly quickly and after a bit of chopping; the oven does most of the work. It'll be a light and lovely dish to place somewhere between the potatoes and the bird.

Ileana Morales is a freelance writer who cooks in a small apartment kitchen in Tampa with boyfriend Danny Valentine, an education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times. For more of their kitchen adventures, visit Ileana's blog, alittlesaffron.com. She can be reached at alittlesaffron@gmail.com.

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Herb Roasted Delicata Squash With Pomegranate

Delicata squash is a great vegetable for the holidays with its beautifully striped skin, which you can and should eat along with the rest of the squash. If you have a roasted butternut squash seed oil to drizzle over this, it's delicious, but extra-virgin olive oil works well. To stretch this dish, double the recipe or serve the squash over a simply dressed salad of arugula.

2 delicata squash (about 2 ½ pounds)

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped thyme, plus a couple

of sprigs for garnish

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Squash or pumpkin seeds

Pomegranate seeds

Parmesan, mild blue or goat cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice delicata squash into ½-inch-thick rings. Use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds from the center of the rings. Reserve the seeds and wash under running water to remove all the sticky squash gunk and roast.

Place the squash rings in a large bowl and toss with rosemary, thyme and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread the rings out on a large baking sheet (or two) lined with parchment paper and bake in an upper rack in the oven until tender and browned, 25 to 30 minutes. (If you're using a baking sheet on the bottom oven rack, flip the squash about halfway through to make sure it browns evenly.) Meanwhile, drizzle the cleaned and dried squash (or pumpkin) seeds with a bit of olive oil in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Place seeds on a small baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast until puffed up, 5 to 7 minutes. Make sure to check on them often to be sure they don't burn. You'll hear some of them pop in the oven, which is always fun.

Arrange rings of delicata squash on a platter, letting some overlap. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and roasted seeds over the squash. Use a vegetable peeler to shave a few long strips of Parmesan cheese over the squash or crumble blue cheese over the dish. Garnish with a few small sprigs of fresh thyme and drizzle with olive oil. Season with a little more salt if needed. Serve warm. You can roast the squash a few hours ahead of time and let it hang out on the counter before reheating gently in a 250-degree oven just before serving with the pomegranate, seeds and cheese.

Serves 4.

Source: Ileana Morales

Delicata squash with pomegranate seeds livens up the Thanksgiving table 11/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 3:31am]
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