Autumn is here, even in Texas!
After our unusually mild summer, I shouldn’t be surprised that Fall vegetables have already made it to the farmers’ markets. I excitedly picked up delicata squash, which is one of the varieties of squash that is actually not found all throughout the cold season. I remember trying to teach this dish, or a variation of it, last January and we couldn’t find any in season!
I particularly love the ease of this squash. No peeling necessary, no stringy goo to remove, and no heavy cleaver knife needed to get through the body of the squash (sigh, butternut squash I love you, but you make me work!). Pick up a few (I found these at Central Market, delivered to them by a local farm) and slice ’em up, skins on, and sauté them in a skillet.
They can be dressed up with anything after…the rings look decorated and beautiful on a platter. I like that the squash aren’t terribly sweet either, so I paired them with the sweet tart marriage of my tamarind-apple relish (you might call it a chutney, but I’m Indian and to us, chunky does not equal chutney). You can adjust the sweetness of the relish as you please, adding more dates as needed. Enjoy!
Serves: Enough to accompany 1 delicata squash
- 1 ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
- ½ cup finely diced onion
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup finely diced peeled red apple
- 3-5 small tamarind pieces, soaked in 1 cup of hot water
- 2 chopped dates, preferably Medjool dates
- 1 medium-sized delicata squash, about 1 pound
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- a pinch or two of kosher salt
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the fenugreek seeds and the cumin seeds and let sizzle for a few seconds.
- Stir in the onions into the pot.
- Saute for a few minutes until onions translucent.
- Stir in the coriander, cinnamon, and salt. Do not brown the onions.
- Stir in the apples. Turn heat to low.
- Extract the pulp as much as you can from the tamarind pieces in the warm water, using your hands or a spoon.
- Strain the liquid into a clean small bowl or measuring cup. You will have about 1 cup brown colored tamarind water. Set aside. Discard the pulp and any of hard seeds if present.
- Pour ¾ cup of the tamarind water into the pan. Save the rest in case you want to add more water later.
- Add the dates and increase the heat back up to medium to bring to a boil.
- Then simmer and let most of the liquid evaporate, about 10-15 minutes.
- Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- Serve chunky, like a relish, or puree into a chutney. If you puree, you will need to add a bit of water to get the right consistency.
- For the squash, cut off the ends and discard. If you can reach in with an iced teaspoon you can scoop out all the seeds and then proceed to slice the squash crosswise into ¼ inch rings. Otherwise, slice them first, then, using a spoon or a knife, scrape out the seeds and any fibers off of each ring. This won't take long I promise!
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, using tongs, lay the rings side by side and not overlapping into the skillet.
- Sprinkle on a pinch or two of salt.
- Cook for 1½ minutes until some browning on the bottom side of the rings has occurred.
- Flip over and cook for another 2 minutes until the other side has browned as well.
- Test for doneness with a fork. The fork should pierce the squash easily without resistance when done. Add a splash of water if needed to steam the squash though you shouldn't have to do this if the rings are thin enough.
- Remove from pan and set on a platter. Dollop with the relish. Serve as an appetizer or side dish along with some chicken or fish or a lovely pumpkin pasta!