My oven was down for a few days. Actually closer to a week... even longer if you consider it was only heating up to 300' - max. Something about the gas valve. I cook often, but it'd be dramatic and exaggerated to say I use my oven every day. I go on cooking binges but I can certainly get by without it for a week, no huge deal. From the moment the maintenance guy said he needed to order a part and to not use it in the meantime, all I could think about was what I NEEDED my oven for. We need another lemon loaf. I was out of granola. I've seen all these wonderful photos of homemade bread and while I've tried and failed before, I must try again, immediately. But since he said not to use it and I didn't want to risk the kitchen filling up with gas and blowing up, we kept meals simple and stovetop. I was dreaming up recipes yesterday and Hugh mentioned a theory about creativity actually thriving in confined parameters. Infinite freedom is too chaotic, there needs to be parameters whether it be money, time, space, a theme, lyrics etc. - constraint based creativity. With a bit of googling, turns out a number of people have written on creativity blooming within restriction versus a vast blank canvas. Twitter for example, the 140 character confinement that revolutionized social media.

Fast forward to today, and it seems that the oven hiatus pushed me to try new things. I didn't need to make granola or another lemon loaf. I actually needed to not make those things to get out of a rut. I finally bought a waffle iron after talking about it for two years and made my new favorite chocolate treat that I'll post next week. This all sounds like a complete "first world problem" but you catch my drift. I needed my oven to break down is what I'm trying to say. 

I've had a few delicata squash appetizers in the past few months that I can't get out of my head. One was back in Portland at Clyde Common, an understated pile of roasted delicata with a handful of greens, shaved parmesan and hazelnuts and another was generously bathed in brown butter and topped with crumbled amareti at Mozza. The squash pairs so perfectly with warm and sweet spices and the fact that you can eat the skin makes them that much more attractive. It's honestly past delicata squash time around here, they were gone in a blink. Just as I'd given up, promising to pay closer attention when fall rolls around again, I found a few lonesome ones at a market I don't often frequent. I hope you can find some near you, but some chunks of butternut or kabocha can work here just fine. A warm salad, a side dish, a whole meal if you'd like with the addition of some lentils or a poached egg. I will add some toasted hazelnuts next time, or maybe a sharp, dry cheese. Let me know if you add anything you like. Call it what you wish, but I've been dreaming of this warm, spiced bowl of my favorite squash. 

Speaking of bowls, I wrote a recipe for Wisconsin Cheese showcasing their gorgonzola and they created a video of our process. Have a look if you're interested. 


A note on texture. As written, the kale ends up somewhere between a kale chip and sauteed kale - crisp edges and a tender center. If you want it more crisp, make sure your kale is completely dry and add 5 minutes to the baking time. If you prefer it less crisp, take 5 minutes off the baking time, giving it just enough time to wilt. The squash and fennel have some kick, if you don't like too much spice, eliminate the red pepper flakes. 

  • 3 small delicata squash (about 1 - 1.5 lb. total) skin on, halved and seeded
  • 1 large fennel bulb, reserving fronds for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. Grade B Maple Syrup
  • 1 tsp. whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
  • salt (smoked or sea salt) + pepper
  • 1 bunch purple kale, stems removed
  • 3 Tbsp. minced red onion

Preheat the oven to 400'. Arrange one oven rack in the upper third and one on the bottom third. 

Slice the squash into 1'' half moons. Slice the fennel down the center, cut out the tough core, slice into 1/2'' wedges. Spread everything on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. of the olive oil, maple, mustard, cayenne, red pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and a few generous pinches of smoked salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat everything, adding another drizzle of oil or maple if it seems too dry. Roast in the upper third of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the squash is tender and caramelized, tossing the vegetables half way through. 

Rip the kale into large chunks, drizzle it with remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread it on another baking sheet. At the 30 minute mark, move the squash tray to the lower rack and put the kale on the top rack. Bake for 10 minutes until the edges are crisp. Add your minced onion and gently toss everything together. Enjoy warm. 

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: rzZAWJOR

Reader Comments (43)

Yep. I'm making this for dinner tomorrow!

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterterrabites

The perfect showcase for such beautiful ingredients :)

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterthecitygourmand

This recipe combines some of my all-time favorite winter and autumn flavors: roasted squash (I will never get sick of it), maple syrup, and power-packed kale.
Also, CONGRATS on the return of the oven. I can't wait to see the chocolate creativity your forced baking/roasting hiatus inspired.

I had a similar oven outage a few years ago that prompted me toward exercising a bit more creativity, too. We need to be FORCED to do new things from time to time, I think; otherwise, why would we move? It is just so comfortable in our cozy, familiar places. And, by the way, I love seeing little hints of how you and Hugh push one another and keep each other going -- just the way it's meant to be. xo

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStacy

How gorgeous. I love kale bowls :)

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDessertForTwo

What a beautiful combination of fresh ingredients!

beautiful. i am excited to make this!

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermackenzie

I love that this is a mini rainbow of colors on one plate! There's nothing better than a beautiful plate of food that is photographed just as beautifully. Such inspiration!

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiane @ Vintage Zest

This is another stellar salad. I'd be torn between staring at it lovingly and eating it.

Glad you managed restraint against filling the house up with gas. I've done that once. It's no bueno.

February 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

beautiful! thank you so much for the inspiration.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterforkandflower

Great recipe! I love the idea of roasting the squash with maple syrup, cayenne and fennel

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMike

What a stunning plate! This looks and sounds absolutely delicious.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Kitchie

this looks absolutely delicious! I love every ingredient you have used and your photography is BEAUTIFUL! Thanks for sharing.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterManu

This looks so refreshing! I must try it out!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSincerely Jill

Seriously gorgeous. Now how to get my face in that.....hmmmmm.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBev Weidner

I love love love delicata squash! I haven't been able to find any recently though anywhere :( they are always in abundance in the fall and have been in hiding since then.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMara @ Elemental Custard

Sara, you just have made your dream come true:) Great recipe!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

wow, what a spectacular looking dish! Love all the textures and colours you have incorporated. I'm not sure that I have ever tried a delicate squash before. I will have to keep an eye out for them.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTina

it's been far too long since i've had fennel. this dish is one that i would eat for dinner for a week straight, and i'm seriously considering making it tonight with what i have on hand.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin

Yet another beautiful salad! I hope I can find some delicata at the market on Saturday.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

looks & sounds fabulous.. i have everything on-hand, with the exception of the kale. to market i go!! thanks!!!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulia

That squash bowl looks so yummy. I love roasted fennel! And kale! And squash! This is definitely going to be a "to try" recipe for this weekend!!! Thanks for sharing!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Tadic

I am SO FOND of roasting kale. The texture hits just the right spot for me. Love how you play it into this salad. We still have homegrown delicata in the root cellar. Definitely on this tasty, happy bowl of goodness soon. Love your comments on creativity under restraint. I come up with the best meals ever when I have limited ingredients/equipment. Having it all pushes you into conceptual laziness.

Oh, and congratulations on your waffle iron purchase! (!!!!!!!!)

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

I couldn't agree more about confinement and constraint fostering creativity. The summers where I live in TX can be brutal so my oven use tends to be limited as it heats up my apartment a bit too much. Over the past summer it allowed for a good bit of creativity regarding raw desserts and meals.

Delicata are out of season here, but I do have a butternut that needs to be used. Thanks for the inspiration and beautiful photos, as always!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

Lovely combo of flavours, will have to bookmark this recipe for winter down in NZ. Thanks :)

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicola @ Homegrown Kitchen

That is a beautiful plate of food. I want to show this to anyone who says vegetarian food is boring. We had an amazing squash appetizer at Nopa in SF last weekend and it made me realize that I am not done with squash, not by a long shot.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDana

Looks so fresh, this is clearly my next fancy salad. How easy is it to find purple kale though ? Keep on the great pictures.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLe Grumeau

Oh I love the color combination with delicious stuffed. Yummy!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterwakanetwork

What a perfectly delicious bowl of goodness.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Did I miss the recipe for the recipe that you made with the Wisconsin Gorgonzola? Oh my that looks amazing, and so does this delicata recipe.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

@Lauren - you can find the recipe on the WI Cheese Talk blog.

February 8, 2013 | Registered CommenterSara

SO beautiful!

Such a wonderful way to use the squash. And I'm kind of obsessed with putting fennel in things... looks like a wonderful weeknight meal!

February 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrian @ A Thought For Food

Gorgeous gorgeous photos! I've got this one on my list.
Smiles from Vancouver,

February 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

You've hit upon a subject I think about often. Can't speak for everyone, but my creativity certainly thrives within constraints. I've found that some of my best recipes have come from times when I need to use a certain ingredient or cooking method. Anyway, waffles irons are the best and I'm glad your oven will be fixed soon.

February 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathryne

I must agree - I find I have the best ideas when I'm put in some kind of box. Usually it's just me trapped in my own mind [ha ha], but too much freedom and I really freak out. It's too overwhelming.
This looks amazing, I love all the flavors here. I wish my family liked squash. I try it every once in awhile, but I'm the only one who will eat it.
And, I am terribly excited about your chocolate waffle-iron treat. We've been waffling a lot more than usual here, but I haven't gone chocolate yet. Can't wait.

February 10, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersarah

You know, I never pondered the idea of creativity flourishing within constraints, but it's so true! Thanks for introducing me to the idea (since it looks like it's been around a while!). Delicata are still in season here in Indiana -- we just tried them this year and LOVE them. We tried a stuffed version, but this salad looks gorgeous.

Hope you both are well!

February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

I tend to write my best essays/research papers under restriction. Something about it gets my creative juices flowing and they just ooze out of my brain. But I never realized it until now.

YAY for the waffle maker - your mornings just got so much better :)

February 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAshlae

oh goodness, this sounds fantastic...

February 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Yum! I've been a fan of your blog for a while, thanks for sharing such amazing ideas and recipes. I love kale and delicata squash together, such a great combination. Will try it with fennel next time for sure.

February 21, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterashley

LOVE all the pretty colors in this dish!

I know this was posted a while ago, but I just found and made it because I had everything in the fridge. This was amazing! I've never tried roasting kale, it really brings out a different flavor. I love the contrast of the sweet and spicy in this dish! (:

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey

I've made this three times in 2 weeks. It's incredible! I substituted some of the delicate for fingerling or new potatoes. Delicious! Thanks for sharing.

November 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLiz @ FloatingKitchen

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>