Friday, October 31, 2008
Stuffed Squash Strikes Again
Yesterday we had our first rainfall of the season here in the Bay area, and here's hoping there's a hell of a lot more where that came from, because we need it!
Anyway, after a wet and windy bike ride home from work, it was the perfect evening to make what is now officially one of my favorite dishes on earth: stuffed squash - stuffed kabocha, in this case. My love for kabocha squash borders on fanaticism; in fact I can be perfectly happy eating a very simply roasted kabocha squash, with nothing more than a little olive oil, salt and pepper. But what I love about stuffing a squash is that you can easily turn it into a one-pot, very satisfying meal, using a little bit of whatever you happen to have on hand. I happened to have some cooked lentils and some chard, plus some slivered almonds and cooked quinoa, and I mixed it all up with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and parmesan, and it was so delicious. Here's a basic recipe that you can alter as you see fit, using what you have in the house and using what inspires you - in fact I'd love to hear your ideas for varying this recipe, so bring 'em on!
Stuffed Winter Squash
Pre-heat the oven to 375.
Begin with one medium-sized winter squash, such as kabocha or butternut. You could also use delicata or acorn, but since those varieties tend to be smaller, you may want to use one squash per person.
Cut the squash down the middle, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with a little olive oil, season w/ salt and pepper. If you'd like you can press a little minced garlic into the flesh. Now place the squash into a baking dish, cut side down, and roast for about 30-45 minutes, until the squash starts to become quite tender and almost looks like the flesh is puckering.
While the squash is roasting, get your stuffing together. I like to use the amounts that are on the larger side, so I can have extra stuffing to eat the next day. Set aside a good sized bowl to mix your stuffing, and add to it:
1/2 an onion, sauteed slowly till it's sweet and golden brown
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, rice or couscous
1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked lentils or chic peas
1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts
1/4 to 1/3 cup bread crumbs - Panko works especially well
1/4 to 1/3 cup grated parmesan
And then, here is where you get to be creative, by adding any of the items below, or any combination of them:
1 bunch chard, cut into small ribbons, and quickly sauteed with a little olive oil and minced garlic
1 cup or so of sliced shitake mushrooms, sauteed or pan roasted in a little butter
1 cup or so of sweet corn or peas
1/2 cup currants or dried cranberries
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Or, maybe you have your own ideas about what to add!
Mix the stuffing well, season it with salt and pepper, and here, you can also be creative with your seasonings. I added a couple dashes of tamari, and, believe it or not, a couple dashes of fish sauce, which added a little depth and most certainly did not lend any sort of fishy flavor, for the record! But you could also add fresh herbs or dried herbs, and/or a little stock or broth. You don't want the mixture to be too moist, but you do want it to be moist enough to hold together somewhat.
Now, it's time to stuff the squash. Take it out of the oven after 30-45 minutes of roasting have passed. Turn it over and spoon the stuffing into the squash. Hopefully you'll have extra stuffing which you can spread into the rest of the pan outside the squash. Drizzle everything lightly with olive oil, add another light sprinkling of bread crumbs and parmesan, and bake for about another 30 minutes or so, until the stuffing becomes nicely golden brown and the squash is meltingly soft.
And now, it's time to eat! And in case you didn't know, you can eat the skin and all, as long as it's well cooked. Enjoy!