End of September into early October is that magical moment when everything seems to be in season at once. At the greenmarket green and yellow summer squash sit next to bright orange pumpkins and winter squash; new-crop apples, pears, and potatoes are piled alongside the last of the heirloom tomatoes; and late-summer eggplants and bell peppers cozy up to the first of the celeriac and fat red and gold beets. Bright, juicy summer meets earthy, starchy autumn.
These juxtapositions always inspire some unusual combinations in my kitchen, and a recent favorite has been this quick sauce of sweet-tangy sautéed sungold tomatoes atop rings of golden-edged roasted delicata squash and topped with a poached egg, pickled chiles and parsley. The flavors and textures sing of summer and fall at the same time – and the squash is a perfect stand-in for breadier things that often serve as the foundation for tomatoes and eggs. The season for this dish is brief, but if you make extra sungold sauce and freeze it you could also be enjoying it in the middle of January, which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.
Delicata squash have become my preferred squash for the most self-interested of reasons: they are so easy to break down. Compared with wrangling a fat butternut or rock-hard acorn squash, delicatas slice like buttah into manageable rings that you can leave as-is for roasting, or break down further into smaller cubes for a soup or to add to a salad or grain dish. Also – and this is huge – delicatas have a thinner, more tender skin than most other winter squash varieties, so they don’t need to be peeled.
And because these squash are so simple to use, they make it onto our plates quickly instead of waiting in the fruit bowl for over a week while I think about what to do with them. Not that I’m abandoning my other squash friends entirely, but I have to admit that when I’m at the market these days and have multiple options in front of me, more often than not I’m reaching for this cute little creamy-hued variety with its green or orange stripes.
Thyme-roasted delicata squash with sautéed sungolds and poached eggs
Gluten-free, Grain-free, Dairy-free, Whole30-friendly
1 medium-sized delicata squash (about 1 pound)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or a 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 pint of sungold tomatoes (or other sweet, ripe cherry tomato variety), halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 to 4 farm eggs
garnishes: olive oil, pickled red chiles or thinly sliced fresh red chiles, chopped flat-leaf parsley, fennel seed gomasio or flaky salt
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Slice squash crosswise into 1/2 inch rings. Remove seeds and pulp using a spoon or your fingers (I save the seeds for roasting with olive oil, salt and curry powder – delicious!). In a large bowl toss squash rings with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grinds of pepper, and thyme. Arrange on prepared pan in a single layer and roast until tender and lightly caramelized on the edges, 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Leave in warm oven until ready to serve.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium skillet or saucepan. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, then add sungolds and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until tomatoes have broken down somewhat and their juices have thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, remove from heat and set aside.
Fill a small saucepan halfway with water (about 3 inches or so). Bring to a boil and add 1 teaspoon vinegar. Turn heat down to a simmer. Crack an egg into a small ramekin. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to stir the water and get it spinning in one direction. Gently lower the egg into the center of the spinning water. Cook 5 minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. Repeat with other eggs. (You can keep the eggs warm in a pan of hot water – brought to a simmer and taken off heat.)
Arrange 3 or 4 squash rings in each of two plates or shallow bowls (you’ll likely have some extra squash). Top with tomatoes and poached eggs. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, chiles, parsley and gomasio or flaky salt.