I love anything stuffed. Calzones, stuffed french toast, stuffed pork chops, stuffing, stuffed peppers, stuffed pasta shells, stuffed teddy bears, HR PufnStuf. (insert laughter if you watched kids tv in the psychadelic 70’s!) There’s something about biting in (okay, not the teddy bear) and finding a treasure. You never really know what it will be like until you let all the ingredients meet up in your mouth. If they’re good, it’s a party in there! Sometimes the stuffing will involve oozing cheese or crunchy nuts. Just that juxtaposition of a bunch of ingredients, that all together are greater than the sum of their parts.
It’s November, and stuffing a zucchini or red pepper with a Mexican or Italian flavours isn’t as accessible as I’d like. Yes, there may be zucchini or peppers around, but hey, they’re obviously not local, so why? Why not rather embrace the containers that are fresh, local and scream Autumn: the lowly squash?! They are just too cute for words. Acorn, Spaghetti, Hubbard, Kobucha, Delicata… so many to pick from.
And the fillings are endless. Go ethnic, like Indian, Greek, Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern… And these fillings can definitely translate to filling peppers, zucchini or tomatoes with the changing seasons.
Because we just had a turkey dinner and I had saved all the leftovers in the freezer, I already had a jumping off point. It’s still Harvest time. There are still a few leaves hanging on for dear life, the sun is still shining, even if it is on a light dusting of frost or snow. I’m not ready to pack it in and call it winter yet. Today it is so sunny and warmish (for November) in Toronto, that it’s hard to imagine that in other parts of Canada they’ve already endured decent snowfalls. So I decided it would be a harvest bounty filling for this week’s squash dinner.
The Kitchn has a fabulous tutorial on the proportions to gather to fill your average sized squash. In the recipe outline below I’ll give the ingredients that I used, but this is so easily personalized, that I expect you all to have fun with this one. It can easily be a great Meatless Monday recipe. Leftover meats, ground meat, lentils, roasted chestnuts or chickpeas, the options are endless. One smallish squash filled up will feed two people easily. We can attest to this, as we split one acorn squash last night. So this post is less about a specific recipe, rather just a few basic steps to follow and adapt for your meal. In the end you are confronted with a lovely present- warm, rich squash meat surrounding a joyous filling. Eat them both together, bite by bite, work from the outside in, or vice versa. In the end, you’ll be stuffed!!!
STUFFED ROASTED SQUASH
- 2 smallish winter squash
- 4-5 cups filling
GENERAL FILLING GUIDELINES TO EQUAL 4-6 CUPS
- 1 cup protein (sausage, chicken, leftovers, lentils, chestnuts, baked tofu etc)
- 2-3 cups veggies (onions, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, greens, etc)
- 2 cups cooked grains (barley, quinoa, rice, farro, etc)
- 2/3-1 cup shredded cheese
- 3-4 tsp herbs or spices
FOR MY RECIPE TODAY I USED THE ABOVE GUIDELINES FOR PORTIONS
- 2 acorn squash
- leftover roasted turkey , diced
- 1 med onion , diced
- 3 garlic , minced
- 1 cup fresh kale , chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh red cabbage , chopped
- 1 apple , peeled and diced 1/4"
- brown and wild rice
- Sharp cheddar cheese , grated
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
PREPARE THE SQUASH FOR ROASTING
Preheat the oven to 375 F with the rack in the lower-middle position. Slice the squash in half from stem to root, scoop out seeds Place cut side down into a baking pan. Pour enough water to fill by about 1/4" (1/2 cm) and cover with foil. Bake until just soft and tender to the fork (about 30 minutes) Exact roasting time will depend on the size and and variety of the squash.
PREPARE THE FILLING
While the squash is roasting, prepare the filling.
Saute the onions and garlic at med-high in a saute pan. Add spices, stir to coat, cook 1 minute. Add any uncooked meat and cook off till nicely browned. Continue to add any uncooked vegetables and saute till just tender. I added my apple before I added the turkey, so that it could get a nice caramelizing. Once all the uncooked ingredients are cooked, add any ingredients that just need to be warmed up.
In the meantime prepare any grain, the way you would usually do. I had the rice cooker preparing the rice early on as it was brown and wild rice, which takes a bit longer to cook.
Once all the ingredients are ready, put all of them in a bowl, toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Adjust heat, with more cayenne or pepper flakes etc.
Finally add 1/2 of the amount of cheese you are using (this is optional, but the gooey-ness is a weakness for me!)
Take the squash halves and flip over to create a bowl. Rub the inside with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Divide the filling between the 'bowls'. Mound it in well, be generous! Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Bake until crispy and bubbling. This may only take another 15-20 minutes.
This is one of those meals that can be created with whatever is in the fridge. Call it a 'Clean the Fridge Out' meal. You can use leftovers, meat, roasted veggies, leftover rice etc, or you can start fresh. You will really taste and season as you go. I wanted a warm, almost Indian feel to the filling, so I used the curry and cumin. I could have also added 1/4 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cinnamon etc.
This is easily adjusted up or down for the amount of people you are feeding. And whether it will be a main or a side. If it is going to be a side, really only use the smallest squashes available, because with the filling, it can be deceptively rich even though it doesn't look like a lot of food.
These can be prepared in advance, and warmed before serving.
Any leftover filling would work well warmed up the next day with a fried egg on top!