Thursday, November 17, 2011

Little Stuffed Winter Squash

My favorite application of the very small, sweet winter squashes is to cut them in half and stuff them with something. I don’t have to peel or chop the squash or even take the time to scoop cooked squash out of its skin and puree it. And each squash half makes a nice, neat, cute little serving. In addition to providing a flavorful accompaniment to the stuffing, the squash also serves as a convenient containment vessel, kind of like the fried tortilla or bread bowl, only less caloric and with a higher WFQ*

These little squash usually have names that are more like terms of endearment, like sweet dumpling, sugar loaf, heart of gold and delicata. Okay, so maybe that last one doesn’t really work, but you get the point. They tend to be fairly sweet and a bit easier to handle than their bigger cousins. I like to roast them for a while before cutting them, which makes them soft enough to cut through more neatly as well as easily, so I can make them into nice bowls for stuffing.

Recently, I stuffed some with a Southwestern-style combination of black beans and rice. This is a really easy stuffing to throw together, and the measurements of the ingredients aren’t all that important. You can make more or less of the stuffing depending on how big your squash bowls are, or you can double it to stuff more squashes. You can also partially cook the squash and cook the stuffing a day or two ahead and just assemble and bake an hour or so before you serve. (You may need extra baking time of you have chilled the pre-cooked ingredients.)

So, have you planned your Thanksgiving meal yet? And how about your vegetarian guest?  You know, the one that you always forget to accommodate. (And who can blame you? You’re busy!) The one you always tell that he or she can just eat the side dishes, and then you forget that you made the mashed potatoes with chicken broth until after he or she eats half the bowl, and then you keep your mouth shut, but feel guilty until Easter. Well, this would be a nice main course for your vegetarian friend or relative (or self.)

*WFQ: Whole Food Quotient

Beans and Rice Stuffed Squash
This dish is vegan if you leave out the sour cream garnish.

2 small winter squash, such as sweet dumpling, heart of gold, delicata or very small acorn
1 tablespoon canola, or other neutral-tasting oil
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup bell pepper (I used red)
½ teaspoon coarse salt, divided
1 medium to large clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup cooked brown rice
½ cup cooked or canned black beans
½ cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 scallions, finely chopped
sour cream for serving, optional

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Pierce the skin of the squash in several places. Put the squash in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle.

2. Cut the squash in half parallel to the stem as neatly as you can. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Return the squash halves to the baking dish, cut side up. If you turned off the oven while the squash was cooling, preheat it to 375 F again.

3. Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook until the onion and peppers are soft and beginning to brown, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, cumin chili powder and crushed red pepper flakes and cook 1 minute more.

4. Add the rice, beans and vegetable broth. Cook and stir 3-5 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed, but the mixture is still very moist. Stir in the cider vinegar and scallions and remove from the heat.

5. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt over the insides of the squash halves. Spoon the rice mixture into the squash cavities, evenly distributing it between the four halves. Cover the dish with foil and bake at 375 for 30 to 45 minutes or until the squash is very soft. Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Makes 4 servings. Wrap and chill leftovers and warm them up in the microwave.

Another recipe like this one: Quinoa Stuffed Squash

One year ago: Creamy Cabbage and Potato Soup

Two years ago: Crunchy Cabbage, Cauliflower and Apple Salad

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