Roasted Cinnamon-Ginger Delicata Squash
I love butternut squash but I do not like opening them.
Delicata squash to the rescue.
The outer skin of butternut squash is so thick and they’re so rock-hard that even slicing it in half is much easier said than done. I feel like I could easily lose a limb with the machete-sized knife I need to use in order to hack through it and I have to wind-up as if I am swinging my knife like a baseball bat at home plate, just to enable my knife to initially pierce the concrete-like exterior. And yes, I have very large and sharp knives, but I still struggle.
If this sounds familiar, your new best friend is the smaller and much more user-friendly delicata squash, also known as the peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash. It’s typically viewed as a winter squash but is actually in the same family as summer squash; think zucchini and yellow crookneck squash, which are so much easier to work with raw. By no means is delicata soft like a zucchini but it’s much softer than a butternut.
The beauty of delicata is that their characteristic green-veined skin is thin and it’s edible, so they don’t require peeling, a nice time, effort, and finger saver.
I trimmed the top and bottom inch from the squash so that I had flat bases, stood it on one end, and then cut down it vertically and scooped out the minimal amount of seeds. Then I sliced horizontal wedges, about three-quarters of an inch thick in width.
I placed the slices on a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat-lined baking tray, drizzled a few tablespoons olive oil over the pile, and generously sprinkled cinnamon, ginger, and a pinch of sugar. I tossed the sweetly spiced pile with my hands, then arranged the pieces in a single flat layer, and roasted them for about 20 minutes in a hot 425F oven. When roasting vegetables, high heat encourages crisping.
There are a million ways to flavor and season the squash, from coconut to canola oil, and from garlic to garam masala. I prefer warmly spiced notes this time of year and am a huge cinnamon fan. The cinnamon and ginger gave these chunks of beta-carotene a nice, warm, fragrant flavor and the pinch of sugar aided with caramelization.
After twenty minutes, I flipped the pieces over, and allowed them to roast for another ten minutes or so, long enough that they were browned and golden. Baking times will vary based on the sizes of the pieces, the squash itself and it’s moisture content, and how well-done your preference is.
Scott is not a huge squash fan, and if I’m going to get him to eat it, or tell him that Baked Parsnip Fries are regular fries, I need to ensure everything is well-done and well-caramelized. He gravitates for the blackest pieces.
The outside of the delicata crisped slightly and the interior remained soft, tender, and buttery. The flesh of delicata is less fibrous and creamier than butternut or acorn squash, and it’s a bit sweeter, which is nice in case someone in your house isn’t a big squash lover. I find it to be closer in taste to roasted sweet potatoes compared to many other squash varieties and like all squash or root vegetables, it’s hearty and filling, warm and comforting.
I like dipping the little half-moons into Homemade Spicy Honey Mustard and because they’re nature’s version of a Scoop-style chip, they’re perfect dippers. Five year old Skylar eats her squash, parsnips, and turnips well-slathered in ketchup. Whatever works.
Most of us likely comforted ourselves all day long yesterday with Thanksgiving food. And then with the leftovers. And December means holiday parties and holiday cheer for a solid month and eating a few extra vegetables is probably a good thing.
Delicata squash is much easier to cut and work with raw, compared to much harder butternut squash. Cooked delicata is slightly sweet, not fibrous or stringy, and reminds me of roasted sweet potatoes. The warming spices used in this recipe complement the soft interior and slightly crisped exterior of the roasted squash.
1 medium delicata squash, trimmed to 3/4-inch thick pieces
2+ tablespoons olive oil (or substitute coconut oil, canola oil, or a favorite oil)
1 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
1 teaspoon granulated sugar, optional but helps with caramelization
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, or to taste
salt and pepper, optional and to taste
optional seasonings desired, to taste
Preheat oven to 425F, line a baking tray with a Silpat Non-Stick Baking Mat, 11 5/8 x 16 1/2-inches, Half Sheet Size or line tray with almuminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside.
Trim about one inch of flesh from each end of squash, creating flat bases. Stand the squash on one and and carefully slice it lengthwise. Remove seeds and fibrous or stringy membranes from squash and discard. Slice into pieces about 3/4-inch thick in width; length does not matter.
Place squash pieces in a mound on baking tray, drizzle with oil, sprinkle cinnamon, sugar, ginger, salt, pepper, and any optional seasonings used over the top. Toss with hands to coat and distribute. Arrange squash in an even flat layer on baking tray, without sides touching. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, remove tray, and flip pieces over with tongs. Return tray to oven and bake for 5 to 15+ minutes on second side, or until desired browning is reached. Baking times will vary greatly based on squash used, its moisture content, how big or small pieces are, and personal preferences.
Baked Parsnip Fries with Creamy Balsamic Reduction Dip (vegan, GF) – Healthier than potato-based fries, and parsnips have a nice warming little kick and the cooling creamy dip balances the flavors
Roasted Carrot and Red Pepper Peanut Soup (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free) – I roasted the carrots and peppers in this soup until they were very well-done, and pureed them with coconut milk, peanuts, and peanut butter, for a soup was a smokey, hearty, easy, and robustly flavored
Caribbean Citrus Roasted Sweet Potatoes – Yams and sweet potatoes can do no wrong and I played up their naturally sweet attributes by roasting them with Caribbean-themed spices
Roasted Sweet Potato Fries (vegan, GF) – I’ll never tire of good old-fashioned roasted sweet potatoes and strongly prefer roasted sweet potatoes to roasted white potatoes
Coconut Cinnamon Sugar Roasted Almonds (vegan, GF) – Roasted nuts engulfed in a cinnamon-sugar coating make the house smell divine and no one will be able to keep their hands out of the jar
Sweet Potato Graham Cracker “French Toast” Sticks – Don’t judge a book by it’s cover because you’ll miss out on how to turn sweet potatoes into French toast sticks, complete with their own baked-in streusel topping. This recipe was included in the Trader Joe’s cookbook I was a contributing author in, and if potatoes can be dessert, this recipe is how
Roasted Peanut Butter Coconut Ginger Carrots (vegan, GF) – A marinade of peanut butter, coconut oil, ginger, and cinnamon is used to coat baby carrots and it turns crunchy while baking
Have you tried delicata squash or have a favorite squash or root vegetable recipe?
Any squash opening tips or tricks?
I’d love to hear about your favorite recipes and any tricks you use to make cracking open raw squash easier and safer, rather than the whack ‘n pray method.
Have a great Thanksgiving weekend and stay tuned for a giveaway!