"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Monday, October 25, 2010

Roasted Acorn Squash with Red Quinoa Stuffing

One of the things I love most about fall is the abundance of squash. The mix of colors and shapes adds some variety to a season where everything is gradually starting to brown, and I feel like the insides of squash are pretty darn delicious too. You can do a lot with a squash. I never met a squash I disliked.

Last week I popped into the supermarket for a quick something-or-other and spotted a beautiful, pine green acorn squash. I couldn't resist, and for a week I admired its perfect green ridges gracing my kitchen counter. This weekend I decided it was time to stop admiring the squash and get it into my belly.

I also happened to have a package of red quinoa I'd bought at Trader Joe's on a whim. I'd never before eaten quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), but I do know that it's a healthy grain that can be used in place of rice. It's got a nutty flavor, a slightly toothsome texture, and it's high in protein, so it makes a good stand-in for meat. I decided to make a variation on my traditional Thanksgiving acorn squash with chorizo stuffing. I left out the meat and made a slightly simpler version that turned out just as delicious. You should try it if you're looking for a veggie alternative that's still hearty and filling. This recipe does take some prep time but most of it is just waiting around for things to finish cooking, so it's pretty simple to prepare. You can put the squash in and then make the quinoa and prep the rest of the ingredients while the squash roasts.

Raquel's Roasted Acorn Squash with Red Quinoa Stuffing For Two (or one with leftovers)
  • 1 acorn squash, washed and dried
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup dry red quinoa, well rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 scant tsp dried sage
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries (I used orange flavored ones that were awesome)
  • maple syrup for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil. You will need to stand the squash up on the non-stem end, so you may need to trim off the bottom to provide a flat surface. Make sure you have a big, well-sharpened knife. Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise. (Or get your bulging bicep'ed boyfriend to do it for you with such skill that he even cuts the stem in half so artfully.) Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the pulp and seeds. Set the pulp aside; you'll want to take the seeds out to roast for awesome snackings. 

Generously brush the squash inside and out with olive oil. Place the squash cut side down on the foil-lined baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes, until the insides are tender.

Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa well under cold running water and drain. Place the quinoa in a pot with 2 cups of cold water and a sprinkling of salt and turn the heat up to high. Once the water starts boiling, turn it down to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook over low heat for 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. (It's okay if the quinoa still looks moist, but there shouldn't be any standing water left in the pot.) Remove the quinoa from the heat and give it a good stir, then leave it in the pot.

Once the squash are done roasting, remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 325. Using tongs, carefully turn the squash halves over to allow the steam to escape. Let the squash cool for a few minutes until you can scoop out the pulp without burning yourself.

While the squash cools, heat up some olive oil in a small saute or frying pan over medium-high heat. (Use enough oil to just thinly coat the bottom of the pan.) Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion and stir occasionally, cooking until translucent and softened. Add the sage and stir well to combine. Cook for another minute or two to allow the flavors to combine, then remove from the heat.

Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the squash pulp into a bowl so that the edges of each half are about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thick. Squoosh up the pulp to break up any big chunks, then add the squash to the pot of quinoa. Stir in the onions and dried cranberries. Season with salt to taste. (Seriously, treat yourself to a big spoonful of this now to taste it. It'll taste only better after you cook it.) Adjust seasoning, and add a little chopped fresh parsley if you have it.

Arrange the two squash halves back on the baking sheet. Mound the stuffing into each squash half. It's okay if you can't fit all of it; that just means LEFTOVER STUFFING for tomorrow's lunch! After filling each half, drizzle with maple syrup and put them back in the 325 oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Perfection! They are sweet, savory, and creamy. The quinoa gets nice and soft and the nutty flavor works well with the squash. Here's hoping you enjoy them. They are a real taste of fall. Dig into the season.


Nina Alvarez said...

Yay! You WANT to be a vegetarian. I can feel it.

Raquel said...

BERRRR! Wrong! Thank you for playing! :) Nothing wrong with a meat-free meal every now and again though. I like to say that I don't discriminate; as long as it's delicious, I'll eat it. :D

CatLady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
allison said...

Willow does a crunchy roasted quinoa that is to die for. Apparently you can just do it (quickly) in a pan with butter.

Raquel said...

That sounds delicious! You can also quickly toast quinoa in a dry pan before you then proceed with boiling it, and that apparently gives it a little extra something special. Noms!

Foxtail Sun said...

Yuummmers. LOVE quinoa. A perfect protein! Also, I made these little filo dough treats filled with baked, mashed butternut squash. A delicious experiment! Let me know if you want the "recipe."