Monday, March 14, 2016

Acorn Squash, stuffed

Acorn squash.

Most people I know say “I’ve seen it at the market, but I don’t know what to do with it!” I think that’s pretty common. In fact, I never did anything with it until about 10 -15 years ago myself.

It’s a cute little thing, really. Looks like an acorn.
But it's a little bit boring.

I try to like it by itself, I really do, and it isn’t that it’s horrible tasting or anything. It’s just boring.  While it can be cubed and diced and sliced and roasted, it’s all rather unexciting. What it needs is a good filling. As you take each bite, you get both the squash as well as an interesting filling, together.

You can get creative and experiment by substituting ingredients to suit you. Look in your fridge and see what needs getting rid of. But for now, let’s start with this recipe.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Take your squash and wash and dry it. Cut it in half and with a soup spoon, scrape out the seeds and strings. Toss that stuff into the trash.

Next, you’re going to bake these halves. Take some olive oil or coconut oil and rub a little along the rim that will touch your pan when it’s face down (like so, see below). Cutting off the bottoms, so that once they are right side up again they sit nice and flat on your plate, is a good idea. Stick a garlic clove under each half. It doesn’t have to be peeled.

Add just a little bit of water to the pan and bake in a 350 degree F oven for about 30-40 minutes. Their size will determine the length of time. Test at the 30 minute mark. A fork stuck into them should pierce right through without any resistance. When done you want your halves to look like this. They should have a nice amber glow about them, not too brown but not too light.

While the squash is baking, you can prepare your filling. You’ll need about 1/2 - 3/4 lb. ground meat (anything you want). I usually use turkey, but not 100% breast meat. I find this gets exceedingly dry. I like using regular ground turkey which includes dark meat because it stays moister. Something else you could use is Italian sausage removed from its casing. You could use a combination of ground turkey and Italian sausage or any combination of meats, like turkey and pork, or chicken and Italian sausage. You get the idea. If you’re a vegetarian, you could of course use firm tofu or soy crumbles.

You’re going to sauté the meat until it gets nice and brown and is cooked all the way through. Remove the meat and drain on paper towels. Leave whatever fat there is in the pan. To this you’re going to sauté your veggies. If there isn’t enough fat in the pan to do this, add some extra virgin olive oil, butter or bacon fat.

For vegetables I like the following:
Crimini mushrooms, washed, stems removed, and chopped
Leek, cleaned, and chopped
1-2 Garlic cloves, minced (or use the ones that were tucked under your squash earlier)
Fresh spinach or other greens, like Swiss chard or kale, washed, tough steams removed, chopped
Celery, chopped

If you like something sweet, you can add a few dried cranberries, currants, or raisins.

Herbs I like to add: basil, oregano, or thyme

Saute the vegetables and herbs until tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. While they are cooking, grate some cheese of your liking. Jack cheese melts nicely, but you can use anything you like. 

Add the meats to the veggie melange and mix thoroughly. Fill your acorn squash halves with this mixture and return, right side up of course, to your pan, top with the cheese and place back into the oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Kids will love this ‘cuz it’s cute. It’s a great way to present veggies and protein together. It’s satisfying and nutritious and most importantly of all, you can be the envy of everyone in your lunch room, impressing your co-workers that you made this.

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