One of the things I love most about the Farmers’ Feast project (and about visiting farmers’ markets in general) is that it gets me to try working with new-to-me ingredients. This month, the sunchokes and Delicata squash included in my mystery basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market were the springboard for this dish. While I’d enjoyed sunchokes before, I’d never prepared them. These yummy tubers are also called Jerusalem artichokes (though they have nothing to do with Israel or artichokes) and are a member of the sunflower family. Before this week, I hadn’t even heard of Delicata squash, aptly named for its delicate skin, edible when cooked. You can prepare this dish with other varieties of squash or pumpkin, but I don’t recommend eating their rinds. As for the cheese, while Canreg Station Farm‘s Bee Balm cheese is absolutely delightful, Fontina would be an appropriate substitution. Aside from its stupendous flavour and attractive presentation, this dish is also a winner in my books because it can be prepared up to 2 days ahead then baked just before serving. It would make an impressive appetizer or lovely side dish.
- 4 Delicata squash, about 1/2 pound (225 g) each or other small squash
- Salty Don’s Smoked Bison Salt (or seasoned salt and pepper)
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) unsalted butter, divided
- ¼ cup (60 mL) cold-pressed sunflower oil or canola oil, divided
- 6 shallots or 1 medium cooking onion, diced
- 3/4 pound (310 g) sunchokes, scrubbed, cut lengthwise and sliced about 1/4 inch (.6 cm) thick
- 2 ounces (55 g) cremini mushrooms, halved and thinly sliced (about 6)
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 cup (250 mL) Panko or fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/2 pound (225 g) Canreg Bee Balm Cheese, cut in 1/4 inch (.6 cm) cubes
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Put 3 tablespoons (45 mL) sunflower oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sliced shallots or onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, 5 minutes.
- Stir in sunchokes and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sliced mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook 10 minutes. Season mixture to taste with a generous pinch of Smoked Bison Salt.
- While filling is cooking, put squash in a roasting pan just large enough to hold them, making sure they are level so cavities will stay filled.
- Put 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of butter in each squash’s cavity and put in the preheating oven for 3 – 5 minutes to melt butter.
- Remove squash from oven and spread butter evenly in the cavities with the back of a spoon. Season squash with a pinch of Smoked Bison Salt.
- Divide cooked filling between cavities, packing down if necessary. Drizzle lightly with remaining oil, cover tightly with foil and cook in oven until tender, about 1.5 hours.
- While squash cooks, using the same sauté pan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter. Add chopped fresh sage and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add Panko and cook for 3 – 5 minutes until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Remove from heat and transfer crumbs and sage to a small bowl.
- Test squash to be sure it’s cooked by piercing in several places with the tip of a sharp knife – it should be nice and tender. When squash is finished baking, remove from oven and cover the filling in each squash half with cubed cheese. Return to the oven until cheese melts, 3 – 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and divide breadcrumb mixture over tops and return to oven for 2-3 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.
Serves 4 – 8 depending upon portion size.