Every fall, the squash calls begin again. They’re part of the season, like apple cider donuts and the colds that come from tromping around without a warm-enough coat. They start off just coming here and there, maybe one a day. But as November overtakes us, the pace quickens and the calls become more panicked.
“Help. Need squash recipes.”
Who can resist those winter squash? Walking through the market, the varieties are as plentiful as the stone fruits were a few weeks ago, and it’s hard to remember that you might actually have to figure out how to eat them when you bring them home. You rationalize as you gather more squashes than you can possible carry. So cheap per pound! And they store so well! There are, of course, the curvy butternut and the dainty acorn, but that is just the beginning. Check out the striped and exotic squashes with edible skins, most notably the carnivale, delicata, and sweet dumpling. And in they go, into your basket, and before you know it ... help!
My favorite thing to do with a winter squash is to stuff it. Not only will you use the winter squash that is taunting you from the counter, but you will also use anything else you overbought at the market last week and haven’t yet made use of, along with any of last night’s grain, sad apples that came back in the lunchbox one too many times, even old cornbread — they all find their home in that little squash bowl.
The recipe below is a guideline, but most combinations of grain, green, apple or pear, and meat work perfectly. For a vegetarian version, roasted pecans do very well in place of the sausage. I especially love this with warm roasted beets on the side.
I once attempted to stuff quinoa into zucchini with disastrous results, so I was eager to try someone else's version in hopes of more success. This recipe is smart, stretching just a bit of flavorful meat into a whole meal when bulked up with cooked grains and greens. I also loved using smaller squash, like acorn — they're much easier to serve, quicker to cook, and all-around great alternatives when you just can't stare at another butternut squash again.
- Christine, November 2015
Stuffed Winter Squash
2 acorn, delicata, dumpling, or carnival squash, cut in half through the stem and seeded
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for rubbing the squash and oiling the dish
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces chorizo or sweet Italian sausage, crumbled or cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped leeks (from 1 small leek)
1 cup chopped apple or pear (from 1 to 2 fruit)
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups sliced tender greens (like spinach, tatsoi, kale, Swiss chard), cut into ribbons
4 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked millet, rice, or quinoa
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Rub the flesh of each squash half with olive oil, and oil an ovenproof dish or baking sheet. Sprinkle the whole baking dish with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Lay the squash flesh-side down in the dish and bake until it is very tender when pricked with a fork, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 425°F.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chorizo or sausage and fry until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the leeks to the hot oil and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the apple, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper, and cook for another minute. Add the greens, sage, cooked grains, and reserved sausage. Cook for another minute, stirring to combine, and remove from heat. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
Flip the cooked squash over in the baking dish so it is flesh-side up. (Be careful, as steam will escape when you turn it.) Scoop the filling into the cavity of each squash half, piling it into a mountain so that it holds as much as possible. Sprinkle with cheese and bake until the cheese melts, about 10 minutes.
- Chopped fried bacon is a great substitute for the chorizo.
- Crumbled cornbread is a delicious substitute for the grain. When you make cornbread and have a few pieces left over, just crumble them into a container and freeze them for your next batch of stuffed winter squash.
- If you don't have leeks, substitute a medium red onion.
- If you don't have cheddar, substitute Parmesan or other sharp cheese.
Reprinted with permission from The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure by Alana Chernila, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
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(Image credits: Melissa Ryan; Jennifer May)