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 [email protected]