Stuffed Acorn Squash

by angelika on September 15, 2010

Today I was looking at the food in our house that was running out of time. We have been trying, as a family, to waste less and really pay attention to what we have and what is about to go bad. A very good thing, especially with a bag of produce costing what it does at the big box organic stores these days. We had a couple of acorn squash I bought to feed the baby, and they had been sitting for a while in the root basket not feeling the love. Well today was their day, and they were done proud. 
I love stuffing squash. It feels festive, and celebratory, and the possibilities are endless. Today I am going to share one version I created, with what I had laying around in my kitchen. It is sweet and savory with such a complex favor palate that it leaves you both delighted and befuddled, at times wondering what exactly is in there. The best thing about this process is how forgiving it is. You can almost pair any grain, with any squash, add some flavorful ingredients you have around, and end with something phenomenal. 

Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash 
1 TBS olive oil 
salt and pepper 
1tsp thyme 
1 cup quinoa 
2 cups veggie broth or 2 cups water and a bouillon cube
6oz goat chèvre 
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 
4-6 tomatoes, roasted
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp marjoram 
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
fresh grated parmesan for garnish 
First we take the acorn squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Then scoop out the seeds and set aside. (you can roast these seeds to make a yummy snack) 

Sprinkle each half with salt and pepper and thyme. Put the olive oil on a sheet or roasting pan and smear each half of the squash- cut side down- into the oil making sure it is well coated. Roast at 400º for 30-50 minutes depending on how big your squash is. You want a knife to pierce through easily. Mine are fairly small and took 30 minutes. 
Take your tomatoes and cut them in half through the middle, then sprinkle the cut sides with salt and pepper. Oil a baking sheet and place them cut side down in the oil. I had 6 small heirloom tomatoes that were getting pretty soft, so that is what I used. Roast them in the same oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on their size. After 15 minutes flip them over.
this is what they look like when done
Scoop the flesh from the inside of the squash into a bowl and set aside. I like to scoop conservatively. I love the way the caramelized ends of the squash look where they were in contact with the pan. I take great pains to leave this bit and only take the flesh from the middle, down an inch or so. 
   
this is what they look like ready for stuffing 

Now while the squash and tomatoes are roasting we need to cook the Quinoa. If you’ve never tasted quinoa (pronounced keen wa) you are in for a treat. This ancient grain is small, round and native to South America. It has a nuttiness that I love and a texture that is wonderful for stuffing. You can find it at any health food store both in the bulk bins and in packages; lately I have seen it at places like Costco and Trader Joes as well. It takes just a touch more care than rice, but it is well worth the effort. It has the highest protein content of any grain and a nutrient profile that packs a nutritious punch. 
We are using 1 cup of dried quinoa today. First we need to rinse it. Quinoa has a bitter coating that you need to rinse in water to remove. I take my cup of quinoa and dump it into my mesh strainer and run water over it in the sink for a couple of minutes. Swish it around with your fingers while you do this.  Then pour the quinoa straight from the strainer into a pot with the heat on medium. You can add your liquid at this point, but I like to toast my quinoa first. I think it adds an extra layer of nuttiness. Basically you dry roast the quinoa in a dry hot pot until the liquid has evaporated, taking care to stir often. It takes about 5 minutes. You will smell a nutty aroma and the quinoa will be dry in the pan. At this point we add our liquid. Usually water is fine, but when stuffing squash I feel like the quinoa needs extra flavor boost so I cook it in veggie broth. The ratio is 2:1. If you don’t have veggie broth you can use 2 cups water and add a bouillon cube or some veggie broth powder as well. Bring it to a boil, then turn heat to simmer and cover for 15 minutes. At 15 minutes open the pot and fluff with a fork. (this means stir it up a bit) Cover again and let it sit off the heath for another 5 minutes. 
With our quinoa and roasted veggies ready it is time to prepare the filling. Today I used goat cheese to compliment the tomatoes. Take your chèvre and put it into a small bowl. Using a fork work the chèvre into a paste. To this we add the roasted tomatoes. I did not want the skins, so I basically just took the roasted tomatoes and squeezed the insides into the chèvre leaving the skin to discard. To this mixture add  two cloves of garlic, pressed, the dry spices and the scooped out squash. 
Toast your pine nuts in a dry pan on medium heat until they are fragrant and golden, then add them to the chèvre mixture. Liberally salt and pepper. 

chèvre mixture when complete

Now you incorporate the chèvre mixture into the quinoa. Mix gently. Add your chopped parsley and mix again.

Using a tablespoon scoop generously into your acorn squash. You want the filling to mound over the top. 
Bake at 375º for 30-45 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parmesan before serving. 
ready to enjoy
We served the stuffed squash on a bed of boiled beluga lentils. I think this is the perfect compliment to the dish. If you can’t find beluga lentils, french green lentils would also be wonderful. I boiled my lentils with some aromatics and they were spectacular, seriously. I think the lentils made the dish in a way. They highlighted everything that was divine about the squash and grounded the whole meal.The preparation I used follows. 
1 cup beluga lentils
1/2 red onion 
5 cloves garlic peeled but whole
2 bay leaves
water to cover
2 tsp salt 
generous splash balsamic vinegar
Into a soup pot put half an onion cut into two pieces, garlic and bay leaves. Rinse lentils and add to pot, then cover with water that comes to about two inches above the lentils. Boil for 30-40 minutes on medium low, until lentils are tender but not mushy. When the lentils are al dente turn off heat, add salt to the water and the balsamic vinegar. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Scoop out the aromatics and discard. You can either drain the lentils in a colander or scoop with a slotted spoon. Garnish with creme fraiche, and enjoy. 
A votre santé! 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

abigail September 15, 2010 at 12:41 pm

yay! another Woodlands girl blogger!
This looks delicious. I'll have to try it when the acorn squash from the garden is ready.

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fred pfeifer September 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm

looks yummy I may even try this tonight, even though I am playing hockey tonight and this food just might slow me down

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Marci September 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm

I made this tonight and my husband loved the lentils…amazing for a man who thinks all beans should be cooked with a ham hock to be edible! I did add 1/4 tsp cayenne to give them a bit more spice for our taste.

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Kim October 14, 2010 at 12:55 am

I like the quinoa in it, great recipe!

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