Delicata squash rings are roasted, tempura-dredged, fried, then stuffed with a simple salad of raw pear, dried cherries, feta cheese and a few sprigs of arugula. The result is a sweet yet savory wonder, perfect for a starter or perhaps a decadent side dish on a holiday table.
1 delicata squash (about 1½ pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
fresh nutmeg, for grating
1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
2 tablespoons seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 firm but ripe pears
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup dried cherries
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
3/4 cup club soda
1 handful baby arugula
1/4 cup roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts
1.Preheat oven to 400 F.
2.Cut the squash crosswise into six rings, about 1-inch thick. Remove the seeds with a spoon. Place the rings on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and grate fresh nutmeg. Wrap the squash in the foil and roast in the oven until tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let come to room temperature.
3.In a small bowl, add the shallot and rice wine vinegar. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to let the shallot soften and the flavors meld. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Slice the pears into matchsticks (a mandoline works well for this).
4.In a medium bowl, combine the pears, feta crumbles and dried cherries. Add the dressing and toss to combine.
5.Preheat a deep fryer to 375 F.
6.In a medium bowl, add the flour. Slowly whisk in the club soda, whisking until smooth. Dredge the squash rings in a bit of flour, then in the batter, one at a time. Fry in batches until golden. Do not overfill the fryer. Remove the squash from the fryer and place on a paper towel lined tray, sprinkle with salt to taste.
7.Arrange the squash rings on a platter, place a few arugula leaves in the center of each ring then divide the pear salad between each ring. Grate fresh nutmeg over each and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Serve immediately.