It’s squash season. Bright orange pumpkins of all sizes, ecru butternut, forest green acorn, mad scientist-y turban, and all sorts of weird warty things. What to do with this bounty? Stuff it! This adaptation of a Clean Eating recipe, which I made the other night, changed up my game big time.
And why was that game so changed? Well, I’ve made stuffed squash before and always felt like it was kind of meh. It’s been a while, and I freely admit that I could have been doing a lot of things wrong. But my memories were a sort of bland, healthy filling and a squash that was a little stiff and not perfectly baked, and also—again—just sort of boring.
Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Squash
The beauty of this technique is how simple it is. You know, the “why haven’t I done this all along?” kind of simple. Heat up your oven, cut the squash in half, season it….
….wrap it in parchment, and bake it. The recipe calls for foil, but I don’t trust it. (This same issue of the magazine has a bunch of myth-busting, one of which is that it’s ok to cook in aluminum, but still….parchment makes a cool noise!)
Stuffed Acorn Squash: The Stuffing
While the squash bakes, you make up your yummy sauce. As usual, I improvised off the recipe recommendations. I sautéed onions and mushrooms—onions and any sautéeable veggie you have on hand would work. Bell peppers are a natural this time of year, as are carrots and celery in any season. I added a spicy chicken sausage I had on hand, having been recently chastised for not using turkey sausage in time (man, does that stuff get funky quick). This subbed for regular old ground turkey in the recipe, and if I’d used that, I would have upped the spice quotient, because it, too, can be super blandorama. (I realized crumbled tempeh would have worked great for a meatless version as well, and there are enough spices in this that it wouldn’t taste like b.s., which tempeh does if you don’t spice it up.)
Speaking of spices, I used the recommended ones from the original recipe, and also doubled the tomato paste quantity. I realized afterward I have some red pepper soup sitting in the fridge that would have also been a dynamite substitute for tomato sauce. Next time. And you could easily make this southwestern by using cumin, oregano, chili powder, and just a pinch of cinnamon.
By the time I’d finished putting the sauce together, the squash had 25 minutes to cook—exactly the amount of time the sauce needed to simmer.
After that, I just took the squash halves from the oven, unwrapped them—they were wonderfully soft, perfectly cooked…
…and filled them with sauce. Oh, at the last minute, I stirred some nutritional yeast into the sauce.
Big flavor, a little more texture. I strewed some fresh basil across the top.
Wow, what a great fall dinner. And even greater is that I finally learned how to do a stuff squash that is both yummy and virtuously healthy. Enjoy.