Friday, November 7, 2014

Roasted Stuffed Squash

by Sheila Connolly

Halloween is behind us, and the Thanksgiving holiday looms. I live only a few miles from Plymouth, so I can’t escape it. Whatever piffle we were handed in elementary school about the happy Native Americans bringing bounteous dishes to the hungry Pilgrims has been toned down to a more realistic story; most likely the colonists and the Wampanoags (the local Indians, who are still around and trying to open casinos) shared whatever they had, and that probably included squash.

Of that first meal Yankee Magazine tells us: “…venison was a major ingredient, as well as fowl, but that likely included pheasants, geese, and duck. Turkeys are a possibility, but were not a common food in that time. Pilgrims grew onions and herbs. Cranberries and currants would have been growing wild in the area, and watercress may have still been available if the hard frosts had held off, but there’s no record of them having been served. In fact, the meal was probably quite meat-heavy. Likewise, walnuts, chestnuts, and beechnuts were abundant, as were sunchokes. Shellfish were common, so they probably played a part, as did beans, pumpkins, squashes, and corn (served in the form of bread or porridge), thanks to the Wampanoags.”

There’s that squash. The problem is, I really don’t like squash.

My mother used to serve acorn squash, using a very simple recipe: slice in half, scoop out seeds, fill the center with brown sugar and lots of butter, bake. In my mother’s defense, Paula Deen and Martha Stewart are still pushing the same recipe. I couldn’t stand it. I admit that makes no sense, because I love all things sweet—except vegetables and starches. But my blacklist includes: sweet potatoes, yams, beets, and baked beans. Most of them make me gag.

But I am a foodie! And most fresh vegetables are now being shipped from Guatemala or Mexico, so mainly it’s squash that is available locally. And the little ones are kinda cute (like kittens and puppies, right?). So I was determined to find a recipe for baby acorn squashes that didn’t involve brown sugar, that I might actually enjoy.

And I did, or actually I found two which I kind of combined (I vetoed the one with chopped dried cherries).

Roasted Acorn Squash with Black Rice

2 small acorn squashes
2 Tblsp vegetable oil
1 cup pecan pieces, chopped

1 1/2 cups black rice aka Forbidden Rice (you may substitute wild rice, brown rice, or even white rice)
2 Tblsp butter
2 shallots, chopped
2 Tblsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the acorn squashes lengthwise, and set one aside.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 

Squash halves (by the way, they're a lot
easier to slice and clean than butternut squash)

Peel and dice one of the acorn squashes. In a bowl, toss the pieces with the vegetable oil, to coat. Spread them on a baking sheet (preferably one with a rim). Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn and spread out again and roast for another 10 minutes. Two to three minutes before the squash is done, sprinkle the pecan pieces over the top so they can roast.

...and after (with pecans added)
Diced squash: before...

On a second cookie sheet, oil the sheet lightly and place the two remaining halves of acorn squash face down. Cover the sheet tightly with aluminum foil. Roast until tender. Note: acorn squashes vary in size from a large lemon to a small football, so adjust your cooking time as needed. The littlest ones take only half an hour at most, while the big (tougher) ones might take 40-45 minutes.

Lots of shallots!
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the chopped shallots for about 2 minutes. Add liquid according to the rice package instructions (the amount will vary depending on which type of rice you use; you may use water or stock). Add salt, and bring to a boil. 

Once boiling, lower the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer gently until the rice is cooked through (check the package for timing!). This may take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes.

The mysterious Forbidden Rice
(is that a rainbow in the steam?)

When the rice and the chopped squash are both ready, toss them together with the thyme and the chopped pecans. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Place the roasted squash halves on individual flat bowls or plates, and season the inside with salt and pepper. Mound the stuffing into the halves. Serve warm.

I liked the recipe. The nuts add both a little crunch and flavor. I should add that this amount of stuffing will fill far more than two halves of a small squash, so if you want to serve more people, just roast more squashes. Or eat it on its own.

The latest Orchard Mystery, Picked to Die, which takes place during the apple harvest in Granford.

For some reason I'm humming the old song that starts "Come, ye thankful people, come" which celebrates the harvest. It's that time of year.


  1. I also like savory squash, Sheila, and often give it an Indian spice treatment. I like the addition of pecans in this dish. (But I think you forgot to actually add the rice in the recipe.)

    1. Unless she made a correction after your comment--

      When the rice and the chopped squash are both ready, toss them together with the thyme and the chopped pecan

  2. Another intriguing recipe, Sheila. Will give it a try. I am lukewarm on squash, but don't mind if someone else does the work. However, I like the look of this. And I will hunt down black rice.

    1. I can't say it tastes very different, but it really makes an impression!

  3. This looks delicious.
    Yes, I think there may just be a rainbow with your rice!

  4. We must have been separated at birth. I don't like sweet things as a main course. I'm okay with a plain baked sweet potato, but usually pass up the version with mini-marshmallows. I like roasted beets and baked beans are meh. I would never go out of my way to have them on my own. I like my squash savory, too--like butternut squash roasted with some olive oil. Hubby LOVES anything sweet so I make half an acorn squash with butter/sugar and the other half with something savory.This looks like something I would like!

  5. I love black rice and bet this version is great even without the squash. I seem to be a peculiar mix - I love summer squash and variations, but I'm not as keen on butternut and acorn. Go figure. This makes a lovely presentation, though. And those who aren't crazy about squash would surely still enjoy the rice.

    I can imagine that venison would have probably been the main course for the first Thanksgivings. Wild turkeys, always in large groups, parade through our yard a couple of times a year, leading me to believe that they must have been present at that time. They probably weren't as plentiful as deer. In addition, I have to say that they're very scrawny in comparison to the turkeys we see in stores. I would think venison would have been the preferred dish.