Although winter can provide us with stunning, ice and snow covered landscapes, glittering and sacrosanct, it also surrounds us with darkness. These days it will often still be dark as I make my way to work, and I’m lucky to catch a few rays of sunshine driving home (although clouds will normally take even those precious minutes away from me). It’s important to my mental health to try and find other ways to brighten my day- and these beautiful delicata rounds made my face light up- they’re soft and creamy, with a flavorful center, and capture the beauty of summer inside a winter squash.
Delicata are a special squash- they’re soft and creamy, and their skins are so thin that once they are cooked they can be eaten (no peeling needed!). Most importantly, they come in a few different shades of green, orange and yellow with stylish stripes, and their cross-section looks like a flower. I wasn’t really sure what to call this dish- it was inspired partially by the gourd’s cross section (I wanted to make something that looked like a sunflower) and partially by a decidedly non-vegan dish I used to eat as a kid. We called them egg-in-a-hole, but they’re also known as “egg in the basket”, “toad in a hole”, “egg in a nest”, and I’m sure many other variations. The basic idea being that you can cut a circle in a piece of toast, and cook a perfectly circular egg inside it. In this case, delicata squash come with a circle already cut, and instead of egg I used a chickpea batter, that when cooked has a taste and texture somewhat reminiscent of baked eggs. They do come out a little bit drier than an egg would, which is why I whipped up a couple super simple cashew-based dipping sauces.
Making these sunflower squash rounds is fairly simple- first cut the squash into circles, from 1/2 to 1 inch thick. Then use a spoon (a grapefruit spoon is the best tool here) to scoop out all the stringy bits and then lay them on an oiled baking sheet single-file. Make sure your baking sheet is flat and not warped, because if it is you run to risk of batter escaping your rounds and covering the whole sheet. I also topped each round with a few twists of freshly ground pepper- not only for taste, but also to give the seed-like effect in the center of a sunflower.
The squash have to bake for around 20 minutes on the first side, before being flipped and cooking another 15-20 minutes. The timing works out well, so that if you start soaking your cashews right after you initially start baking the squash, they’ll be ready to blend after you’ve finished turning all the rounds over. From there it’s time to serve and enjoy- I prefer these rounds warm, but I’ve also had them at room temperature and they’re delicious then too.
Delicata Rounds with Lemon and Miso Dipping Sauces
- 2 delicata squash
- 1 cup of chickpea flour
- 1 1/2 cup of water (split)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil (+ slightly more to grease pan)
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. curry powder
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 cup cashews
- ½ lemon’s juice
- 1 tbps. Miso
- Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Cut the delicate squash down the length, in pieces about 1 inch thick and use a grapefruit spoon to remove the seeds from the center of each delicate circle. Use some oil to grease a baking sheet, and set each round on top in a single layer (you may need two sheets).
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup of water along with the chickpea flour, oil, lemon, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, curry and shallot. Carefully pour the batter into the center of each squash, up to the top without going over. Sprinkle a little salt and crack some fresh pepper over each one, then place in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes flip the squash, and allow to bake for at least another 10 minutes, until the squash are completely cooked through.
3. In the meantime, soak the cashews in water for at least 15 minutes before using. Drain all but ½ cup of water, and blend until smooth. Divide roughly in half, and using a whisk or the blender combine ½ a lemon’s juice in one half, along with salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tbsp. miso in the other (going a little heavy on the pepper in the miso sauce will add a nice touch).
4. Serve the squash warm or at room temperature, along with the dipping sauces.