Thursday, September 18, 2014

Acorn squash

Finally!  This week starts winter squash.  Acorn squash, to be specific.  Wahoo!

Yeah, I guess I get excited about these things a little too easily.  But this makes it okay to start fall now.  Great!  So what do we do with it?

Acorn squash is quite the blank canvas.  In most cases it's baked.  Like most winter squash, you'll need to plan some time for this.  Definitely worth the wait!  The recipes we're going to look at today involve cutting it in half, scooping out the seeds, and roasting it.  Usually, this is done in two phases,  First, salt and pepper the inside of the squash, coat with some olive oil, and put it in a roasting pan.  Adding 1/2" water to the pan keeps the squash from scorching and sticking.  Bake at 350-400˚ for about 30 minutes.  Add the filling, and bake it for about another 30 minutes.

It's what gets put back in the center that makes the difference.  Stuffings can be either sweet or savory.  For example, for the savory option, stuffing it with meat and herbs.  Interestingly, acorn squash lends itself to spiced stuffings as well, such as this Moroccan recipe or even this one with hot peppers.

Photo via Food & Wine

A savory-sweet stuffing works well, but you can even make acorn squash into dessert.  Below is a slightly modified recipe I got from a cookbook I found at Mohegan Sun casino's gift shop.  Cranberry-stuffed acorn squash can almost be a dessert!  (For fall recipes, Native American-inspired cooking is full of interesting ideas.  One of my most prized cookbooks is one by the chef at the National Museum of the American Indian.  If you haven't eaten in the cafeteria there, GO NOW.  I'd put it up against any high-end restaurant I've experienced.)

Cranberry-stuffed Acorn Squash
  • 4 acorn squash
  • 1 1/2 cups whole fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple or brown sugar 
  • 1 tbsp hazelnut oil (do not substitute for this!)
  1. Cut each squash into halves and discard the seeds.  Trim the ends so that the halves will stand.  Place cut side down in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.
  2. Combine the cranberries, orange zest, apple sauce, sugar, and hazelnut oil in a bowl and mix well.  Spoon into the squash.  Place filled side up on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes longer.  Serve immediately, with whipped cream if desired.

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