Monday, September 5, 2011

Roasted Stuffed Squash

Wow, is it fall already?  Time always seems to proceed normally until around July 4th.  Next thing you know, it's September.  I'm not sure how that works, but it does.  So, it's time to start mentally switching gears to fall-ish foods, which always means squash to me.  I love squash.  As a kid I hated squash on principle because it's a vegetable.  Plus, every squash recipe back then included brown sugar and mini marshmallows.  Blehhh.  At the risk of being called anti-American, I must confess I don't have much of a sweet tooth and don't like sweet stuff on vegetables.  But savory squash recipes are a whole different thing.  Even The Lawyer, a professed squash hater, has confessed to liking this recipe.  A convert!  The secret is to make sure you don't undercook the squash.  That's right, don't undercook.  Squash has to be very tender.  Baked with butter, salt and pepper, it's a great side dish.  If you then stuff it, it's a even greater complete meal.  Use any small squash that you prefer - the most common is acorn, but buttercup is also wonderful or any of the new, cute red varieties in the store.  This recipe is very flexible - use a different meat choice, no meat at all, different mushrooms, different nuts, etc. I've tried both hot Italian sausage and chorizo with great results.  Pepitas are toasted pumpkin seeds and a favorite of mine, but use whatever you like.  Finally, this recipe does take a while to prepare but the good news is that it's kind of like lasagna - you can do all the prep and assembly in advance and just bake it at the last minute which makes it a legitimate contender for a weeknight meal.  But, it's impressive enough for guests - just add a crusty french bread and a dessert, and you're all set.

**click here for a printable version**
 Roasted Stuffed Squash
4 servings

2 small squash - acorn, buttercup, etc.
1 cup uncooked rice pilaf or wild rice
Cut, cleaned and ready for baking
4 oz sliced button mushrooms (or wild mushrooms)
3 tablespoons margarine, divided
1 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup shredded parmesan (plus additional 1/4 cup for garnish)
8 oz crumbled cooked hot Italian sausage (or chorizo or any leftover chopped meat)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup pepitas, toasted (or other toasted nuts)

After baking for 60 minutes, ready to stuff

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut a thin slice off each end of the squash, then cut in half crosswise.  Carefully scoop out seeds and fibers. Line a baking dish with parchment.  Place squash halves in the baking dish and rub the cut surfaces and the interior of each with 1 tablespoon margarine. Place a small amount of margarine in the bottom of each half.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast at 400d for 60 minutes.

While the squash is roasting cook the rice according to directions, then drain and set aside to cool.  Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining tablespoon of margarine, then saute the sliced mushrooms until the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms are golden.  In a large bowl, combine the rice and mushrooms with the remaining ingredients except the garnish.  At the end of 60 minutes, remove the squash halves from the oven and fill each until mounded.  If you have rice mix left over, it makes a great lunch the next day.  (At this point the squash halves can be refrigerated for baking later.  If refrigerated, add 10 minutes or so to the baking time.)  Place the squash halves back in the oven for an additional 30 minutes, until the filling is hot.  Sprinkle with additional parmesan before serving.

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