Two words: delicata squash.
I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but up until I made this dish, I had not once cooked a delicata squash. Why not? I thought, like gourds, they were purely decorative. How embarassing! And I call myself a food blogger?
I think I made up for it with today’s recipe. And please excuse my use of chickpeas for the second time this week: I didn’t want them to go bad!
Delicata squash has the heartiest flavor of all the squashes, I’ve come to find. It almost tastes meaty or nutty. When lightly dabbed with maple syrup, its rich flavors create a sweet and savory dream. Cutting into one is like having dinner and dessert in a bite.
And let’s talk about the toasted pumpkin gremolata breadcrumbs. Since I’ve only used pumpkin once this October, I wanted to build it into a recipe. I went to Marc Forgione restaurant in TriBeCa with Lu on Saturday night and saw “pumpkin gremolata” on the menu. Genius. I didn’t actually order it, but I know how to make gremolata breadcrumbs, so I seasoned and toasted some pumpkin seeds, threw it in the mix and called it even. And wow, the crunchy fall flavors of this gremolata makes the dish come together, completely.
The chickpeas are a light protein source that pairs well with the freshness of the zucchini pasta, which is simply cooked in garlic, red pepper flakes and a bit of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese (my favorite way to create a salty and satisfying pasta sauce).
Not only did I eat an entire roasted delicata squash, but I licked this bowl clean. If you’re gluten-free, substitute gluten-free bread in this recipe for the whole wheat kind. You don’t want to miss out on this gremolata.
Side note, that’s unrelated to this dish: Today is Lu’s 35th birthday. I’ve got lots in store for him! I’m a big birthday person – I love to make people feel like their birthday is the most important day of the year, because it is! In his honor, I’d like to reminisce about his birthday last year.
It was when Hurricane Sandy was hitting brutally. We had no power, we were crouched in his apartment in Hoboken with another couple, and we were eating whatever his then-roommate-who-was-also-a-nutritionist could whip up. We had been stuck in there since Sunday and now that it was Tuesday, we were going stir crazy. I remember trying to go down the elevator and water started rushing in like in the Titanic. We took the stairs and couldn’t get out of our building without being in waist-high murky water. We went on top of the windy roof and saw people floating on mattresses and kayaking in the streets. It was surreal.
Above: the view outside Lu’s apartment during Hurricane Sandy, and Lu, the day we escaped and sought shelter in my Uncle’s house in central NJ.
That evening, I went into the hallway where I heard two guys playing a drinking game. In an act of kindness (rations were low!), they gave me a beer and we had a birthday toast for Lu. Plus, his neighbor across the way “cooked” him cupcakes on a gas stove, miraculously. All of us celebrated his 34th birthday in candlelight that night, playing board games, eating interesting-tasting cupcakes and listening to Mother Nature howling outside.
So Lu, I dedicate this recipe to you…. and to a natural-disaster-free birthday this year, I love you! #jerseystrong