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
Maple Roasted Delicata Squash & Chickpea Zucchini Pasta with Toasted Pumpkin Gremolata Breadcrumbs
- For the breadcrumbs:
- 1/4 tsp crushed coarse sea salt
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 1.5 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 piece of whole wheat bread
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp shelled pumpkin seeds
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- olive oil cooking spray
- For the rest:
- 1 delicata squash
- maple syrup to drizzle
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 medium zucchinis Blade C
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup chickpeas
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese + 1 tbsp extra for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Take the delicata squash and cut it length wise. Scoop out the inside seeds and cut into 1" thick pieces. Place in a baking tray, coated with cooking spray.
- Drizzle maple syrup over the squash very lightly. Rub in with fingertips or cooking brush and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes, flipping over twice throughout cooking to ensure that both sides brown evenly.
- While the squash is roasting, place the pumpkin seeds in a baking tray and coat seeds with cooking spray. Season evenly with cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and place into a food processor. Chop roughly. Place into a bowl and set aside.
- Place the bread into the food processor and pulse until made into breadcrumbs.
- Place a medium skillet over medium heat and add in the 1/4 tbsp of olive oil. Once the oil heats, add in the breadcrumbs. Toast for about 2-3 minutes or until they just start to become crunchy. Add them into the bowl with the pumpkin seeds and add in the lemon zest, parsley, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, place in the tbsp of olive oil. Once the oil heats, add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add in the red pepper flakes, cook for 30 seconds and then add in the zucchini noodles and chickpeas. Cook the zucchini noodles for 2 minutes and then add in the cheese, stir to combine thoroughly, and plate into a dish.
- Top the zucchini noodles with 4-5 pieces of delicata squash, 2 tbsp of the breadcrumbs and top with extra cheese, if desired.