Roasted Delicata Squash with Orange and Thyme

MAKES 4 SERVINGS • PREP TIME: 10 minutes • COOK TIME: 20 minutes

As a cook, you never stop learning. I was doing a cooking demo one day in a tiny town in West Marin across from Toby’s Feed Barn. As I was prepping and peeling the squash, an extremely seasoned farmer with a weathered face came up to me. He was the kind of guy who normally wouldn’t talk even if he were on fire. But what I was doing truly had him flummoxed. He looked at my peeler, smacked his lips in thought, and said, “Y’know, you don’t have to peel ’em.” He might as well have said it’s okay to drive naked. I told him I’d been peeling them forever. “Nooooo,” he moaned, at what was obviously food blasphemy in his book. “The skin is good—tender. Stop peeling!” It turns out he was right: the skin does indeed taste fine, and once it’s cooked, it isn’t tough. Squash has excellent anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting nutrients, along with a huge kick of vitamin A. In this incarnation, it also has wonderful sweetness, thanks to the roasting and the addition of orange zest and maple syrup.

1 delicata squash
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the stem end off the squash, use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds, and cut the squash into in 1/4-inch-thick rounds; alternatively, cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and cut the squash into 1/4-inch-thick semicircles. Put the squash, orange juice, orange zest, olive oil, maple syrup, thyme, salt, and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl and toss until the squash is evenly coated. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the squash to the lined baking sheet, spreading it in a single layer. Reserve the liquid in the bowl. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip the squash over and baste with the reserved liquid. Bake for 10 more minutes, until the squash is tender.

COOK'S NOTE: If you have a melon ball scooper, now is the time to take it out of hibernation; it’s the perfect instrument for scooping out squash seeds.

Reprinted with permission from The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods. Copyright © 2013 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.