Saturday, October 19, 2013

Veggie of the Month: Sweet Dumpling Squash

As October crept past its midpoint, I found myself starting to wonder what I could come up with for my Vegetable of the Month. I had picked up some king oyster mushrooms on our last trip to the H-Mart, thinking maybe those would do for a Fungus of the Month, but I made a couple of goofs with those. First, I forgot to get a picture of them before cooking them, and second, they ended up in a savory wild mushroom soup (out of Linda Fraser's Vegetarian cookbook) along with some plain white button mushrooms and a few reconstituted shiitakes—so although the final result was tasty, the specific flavor of the oyster mushrooms couldn't really be distinguished as such.

So all week, I was on the lookout for something else suitable for my October Veggie of the Month. I could have kicked myself when, after a trip to Trader Joe's on Thursday, I picked up a copy of the Fearless Flier on the way out of the store and discovered only after getting home that one of that week's specials had been on Cucurbita Pepo, otherwise known as delicata squash, a winter squash I'd never tried before. The flavor is described as similar to butternut, but richer and creamier, and it has such a thin rind that it doesn't require peeling like most winter squashes, making it much easier to work with. If I'd only taken the time to look through the flier while we were still in the store, we could have tried this new squash variety for only 99 cents—and if we'd liked it, we might even have considered adding it to our garden crops for next year. But alas, I was too late (and since the Trader Joe's is down in the Princeton area, there was no real chance of popping back in over the weekend to remedy my oversight).

I hoped we might manage to locate the delicata squash at some other local store, so during a round of errands this afternoon, we checked several: first the Aldi, where we had to stop in anyway for some mushrooms, then the Asian grocery store in the same shopping center, then the Shop-Rite across the street, and finally the H-Mart on the way home. Not one of them had delicata or any other squash that was new to us. Frustrated, but not quite ready to give up, I stopped in at the Stop & Shop on the way back from another afternoon outing (helping a friend to move the biggest freaking TV set I've ever seen) and discovered this little beauty in the veggie bin. It looked kind of like the pictures I'd seen of delicata squash, but the label on it actually said "Sweet Dumpling." But I figured, well, that might be just another name for delicata—and even if it's not, it is at least a new variety of squash I haven't tried before, so it will do just as well for my Veggie of the Month entry.

Well, the bad news is, Sweet Dumpling turns out to be a different variety entirely from delicata. It's a true winter squash, with a tough rind that you wouldn't want to eat. But the good news is, it turns out to be pretty easy to prepare; a quick Google search turned up ten different, simple suggestions. We went with the simplest of the bunch, halving the squash and roasting it with a little brown sugar, since it could bake right alongside the free-range chicken legs that we were planning to cook up for dinner. Here it is in its baked form, hollowed out and lightly glazed.

So how was it? Well, like the buttercup squash we tried back in January, it was pretty good, but not extraordinary. The flesh was tender and reasonably sweet, but it wasn't as smooth-textured as butternut, and the flavor didn't seem as complex. Overall, I don't see any real advantage to choosing Sweet Dumpling squash over butternut, and I certainly wouldn't want to give up any of my precious garden space to it. So once again, my Veggie of the Month is an interesting experience, but not something I particularly want to make a part of my everyday life.

Meanwhile, I'm still planning to keep my eyes open for a delicata squash if I can find one anywhere. Veggie of the Month for November, maybe?
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