Whether you shop at the grocery store, the farmer's market, or the farm stand, (or all three!) you can't go anywhere without running into squash right now!  The best markets will already have a rather diverse selection, which might include kabocha, acorn, buttercup, delicata, butternut, spaghetti, and carnival squash.  All are wonderfully flavorful and nutritious, and each has it's own unique characteristics that make it special. 

The delicata squash may look rather unassuming next to the cute and colorful carnival squashes or the rustic, brightly-colored sunshine kabocha, but it is actually a wonderful little gourd!  Delicatas are small and yellow with green striping and are one of the easiest squashes to prepare raw because of their small, easy-to-manage size and their thinner skin.  Their flavor is rather mild and "delicate" compared to other varieties of winter squash.  The delicata blends well with other ingredients because of it's unassuming flavor but still lends that signature nutty-sweet flavor of squash to any dish.

This stew is a nice, easy weekday meal with a lot of the cooking time being inactive.  It is healthy yet hearty and quite inexpensive to put together, and makes great use of a lot of kitchen and pantry staples.  Since it has some distinctly mexican characteristics to it, I had a couple tortillas on the side (and for dipping!) to make it a nice, filling meal. 

Delicata Squash and Pinto Stew
Serves 6

2 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large green pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, cooked
about 6 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 T ground cumin
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp Mexican oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Tortillas, to eat alongside the stew (optional)

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil.  Add onions and celery and cook until onions are soft and lightly browned, about 6 minutes.  Add squash and peppers and cook another five minutes.  Add garlic in the last minute.  Deglaze pan with white wine and allow liquid to reduce for about two minutes.  Add pinto beans, stir well, then add enough vegetable stock to just cover all the vegetables.  Bring liquid to a boil, then add spices.  Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer until fragrant and slightly thickened, at least 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with warmed tortillas on the side.

Optional step:  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup for about a minute so that there are still lots of diced vegetables