Monday, 20 October 2014 | 17 comments

Sweet & sour delicata squash

We’ve been keeping busy. Lots of early mornings, driving from trains to winery to long days in the office, and late nights. I haven’t had my hands on as much good fall seasonal stuff as I would have liked this year. There will be no cutesy photos of the chickens milling about some decorative pumpkins. As usual, I thought I would plant a fall garden two months ago. Ha. I’m learning big lessons about this, about how some seasons I really get to dig in to the good things, and some I just suck it up, keep my head down, and pay the bills.

Ben picked me up from a late train home the other day with two hot pizzas in the backseat. Do you know how good that feels? What a guy.

If Pinterest is any indication, though, there are a lot of people who rely less on pizza and are making time for all that good fall stuff, including this recipe I posted last year from Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. I picked up a couple last week and went back to the book hoping for another, equally good rendition. I found this one.

The recipe is a classic Italian agrodolce preparation. Pretty simple, but really good. The fussiest part is lightly frying and flipping the squash to caramelize both sides. I used the white wine vinegar the recipe calls for, but I think it would really benefit from red wine or sherry vinegar. The caramelized sugars of the squash combined with the vinegar-brown sugar mix you toss in at the end coats everything in a gorgeous, tangy gloss. Domenica writes that squash prepared this way is as good as candy, and I mean, I’m not the right person to ask because I’d take something vinegary over candy most days, but I might agree.

Elsewhere: I collaborated with USPS Stamps (I know, it sounds unlikely…but their website is neat) on the release of some new stamps featuring American “celebrity chefs”. No Food Network stars here: these are beautiful portraits of Julia Child, James Beard, Joyce Chen, and Felipe Rojas-Lombardi. I jumped at the chance to profile the inimitable Edna Lewis. You can read the little essay I wrote here.

Sweet & sour delicata squash

Adapted from Domenica Marchetti’s The Glorious Vegetables of Italy

You’ll need

  1. 1 pound delicata squash (I’ve found that delicatas average about one pound each, so you can count on one for this recipe unless it seems unusually small or large)
  2. 1/3 cup olive oil
  3. 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  4. 1 tablespoon light brown or demerara sugar
  5. 3 tablespoons white wine, red wine, or sherry vinegar
  6. 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
  7. Freshly ground black pepper
  8. Fresh mint, chopped


  1. Trim the delicata squash on both ends. Halve lengthwise, and slice in 1/4-inch thick half moon slices.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium-low heat, cooking it until it is fragrant but not at all browned. Press down on the garlic cloves with a spatula or wooden spoon to release their flavor. Remove the garlic.
  3. Arrange a layer of the squash slices in the heated oil. Cook, turning once or twice, until they are beginning to be golden, with some chestnut spots, on each side, but not mushy. Remove the slices with a slotted spoon or spatula and continue to work in batches until you’ve cooked all the squash slices this way.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and sugar. Return the squash slices to the skillet and add the vinegar-sugar mix. Season with some salt an pepper, and carefully toss the squash in the mixture until it reduces and coats the slices. This won’t take long. Taste for salt and season more if necessary.Don’t agitate them too much, or else they’ll start to fall apart.
  5. You can serve the squash right away, but Marchetti suggests transferring it to a platter, covering it, allowing it to sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle, and serving at room temperature. It is good either way.

    Scatter the chopped mint over the squash before serving.

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§ 17 responses to Sweet & sour delicata squash

  • I was looking for something to do with some delicata squash I bought on the weekend! Thank you. How awesome that you got to work on those stamps. They are wonderful.

  • Meg

    I love delicata squash….and the fall. This looks lovely!

  • Margit Van Schaick

    Yes, at times it seems impossible to maintain a harmonious balance between grueling work (for work does become grueling when the balance issue is so out of kilter) and the rest of life. The feeling of loss when this happens for an extended time is deep. My greatest pleasure comes from the dailiness of ordinary activities, like gardening , cooking, baking, luxuriating in experiencing the outdoors. For the past two years, following major surgery, I’ve had to limit those and spend most of my awake hours sitting at my desk in order to try to survive financially, long after I had recouped my physical well-being. I have promised myself that next Spring I will try to shift things around the other way, to fill my intense yearning to live my life the way I want. I look forward, too,to seeing more photos of your flock doing all kinds of antics!

  • I grew up on brown sugar with squash, but the vinegar sounds like a perfect addition. And congrats on such an interesting project with post office!

  • Squash is one of those things I always buy and then let sit for far too long before cooking. I don’t exactly know why that is but at least it decorates my bowl in the meantime. I particularly love delicata squash and think the vinegar sounds like a welcome contrast to the sweet flavor of the meat. You have given me an idea for a composed fall salad starring this delicious sounding squash.

    I hope your days become less hectic and more balanced. A man who brings you pizza at the train station is definitely a keeper; at least you have the important parts of life.

  • Sarah, thanks for shining a light on my book. Your photo of the delicata rings is lovely. I haven’t yet made this recipe this season. Looking forward to it now that chilly weather is upon us. Big congratulations on your collaboration with USPS Stamps. I, too, am a fan of Edna Lewis. Her book The Taste of Country Cooking is one of my favorites, for the very reasons you mention in your essay ~ the simplicity of her recipes, the focus on good ingredients and on technique. I love the gentle tone in her written recipes. “Genuine” is the word that comes to my mind when I think of Edna Lewis ~ in fact, quite the opposite of what the term “celebrity chef” conjures. Cheers, D

  • Oof. I’m so glad it’s not just me who feels like it can be a struggle to make the most of all the lovely things. I’m not sure though that anyone can eat enough peaches. Or fresh peas. Or…well, you know. All the things.

  • Maggie

    Sarah, that is a groovy thing — your comments on the USPS site!!!

  • Nancy S.

    I just saw those stamps last week and was thrilled, and LOVED that Edna Lewis was one of the chefs! Congrats! The fact that you had something to do with that is tremendous and wonderful! She is an American treasure, certainly. The Peacock/Lewis collaboration was a wonderful nod to her talent and place, and a new wave of celebrating her. I plan on framing a sheet of those stamps! AND back to squash: I have 3 delicata sitting on the counter, and will be both trying this recipe, and checking out that book!

  • leslie

    That recipe sounds amazing and congrats on the essay you wrote for the stamps, very cool!!

  • Susan

    I’ve been making the delicata squash with cream recipe you posted last year a LOT. (I’ve also been proselytizing about it to anyone who asks me about squash recipes! It’s seriously THAT good.) I just got some delicata from the CSA, so this recipe’s up next. Thank you!

    I’ve also ordered a copy of the cookbook. If this is one you like this much, clearly it needs to be in my kitchen. Would you be willing to give us a list of highlights – recipes from the book you really like? Thanks!

    p.s. Any possibility of the molasses cookie recipe you mentioned a while ago? Christmas cookie season is bearing down on me like a freight train….

  • Wow! What a wonderful recipe this is. I’m a huge fan of all kinds of squashes but this is something special. Thank you so much, Mari.

  • Just made (and ate) this soup and it is even more delicious than I thought it would be. Thanks again!

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