Squashing the Competition
Chef Dave Wasem of Grand Lake Kitchen whips up a delicata squash dish just in time for fall.
Chef Dave Wasem of Oakland’s Grand Lake Kitchen likes cooking with delicata squash.
Nothing against butternut squash and its iconic fall flavor, but it’s not the only winter squash in the produce bins. If butternut’s heft and thick rind prove inconvenient for simple weeknight cooking, do like many local cooks do: Turn to the silky, sweet ease of delicata.
“Delicata squash is easy to prepare,” said chef Dave Wasem of Oakland’s recently expanded Grand Lake Kitchen. “And it has a little bit more character than butternut squash. It’s a little nuttier, a little sweeter.”
And it’s a little … littler. At between 5 and 9 inches in length, the cream-colored, oblong vegetable lined with long, green stripes is not plus-sized, which, in a farmers market bag or on a chopping board, can be a real plus. Also, true to its name, delicata has a dainty little rind that barely needs to be peeled, if at all. Simply rinse and halve the squash lengthwise, then seed it and slice as desired to prepare for roasting or steaming.
The daintiness stops there. Delicata’s flavor is far from delicate. The yellow flesh packs a sweetness so robust it’s compared to sweet potatoes, and is even known as “sweet potato squash,” making it a good match alongside meats such as pork, said Wasem. Early-season delicata, harvested around October, is favored by the chef both at the restaurant and at the home he shares with his wife and Grand Lake Kitchen co-owner, May Seto Wasem. The two were married a month before they opened the restaurant four years ago, and celebrate two anniversaries this fall.
“At home we roast delicata with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper,” said Wasem. “At the restaurant we pair it with roasted chestnuts, pomegranate seeds, and brown butter. It makes a great side or tasty early-winter snack.”
Grand Lake Kitchen, 576 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-922-9582, www.GrandLakeKitchen.com.
Roasted Delicata Squash
(Serves 4-6 as a side dish)
½ pound (about 20) roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped
3 small delicata squash (about 1.5 pounds), cut lengthwise, seeds removed
Salt and pepper
6 tablespoons butter
12 small sage leaves
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
For the roasted chestnuts: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Score chestnuts with an X on the flat side, making sure to pierce the skin. Arrange flat side down on a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with water. Roast 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are tender. Place a towel over them and let them rest for 5 minutes. Carefully peel chestnuts while warm, and chop.
For the dish: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the squash generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the squash on a baking sheet, skin side up. Roast about 20 minutes, or until skin is easily pierced with a fork. Flip the squash and bake it 5 minutes more. Remove it from oven and set aside.
Reheat the peeled, chopped chestnuts briefly in the oven, remove them from the oven and set them aside. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the butter over medium heat until foaming. Add the sage and cook until fragrant and butter smells nutty, about 1 minute.
Plate the squash in serving dish and sprinkle with chopped chestnuts. Drizzle with brown butter and sage leaves. Top with sprinkled pomegranate seeds and serve.
Published online on Oct. 13, 2016 at 5:00 p.m.