Showing posts with label Acorn Squash. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Acorn Squash. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How a 5 Year Restaurant Reservation Inspired My Healthy Writer’s Snack by Cleo Coyle

If Henry David Thoreau had opened a restaurant, this would be it. According to Bloomberg news, it’s "one of the most exclusive dinner reservations on the planet," and diners from all over the world wait as long as five years for reservations. This bistro is not located in Manhattan, Paris, or Barcelona, but in the finished basement of a man’s modest private home in rural Earlton, New York.

To virtually visit this restaurant,
watch the short video below...


The video will begin after a short commercial...

Why did this man's
inspire me?

Because he didn’t attend culinary school. He didn’t apprentice at a famous restaurant. Yet diners from over fifty countries have paid upwards of $255 a head for a 20 course meal at his restaurant. This self-taught chef calls his cuisine "Native Harvest" because he farms the food himself on his 12-acre land and then cooks and serves it with his own two hands. 

Certainly anyone who embarks on a quest to fulfill a vision will cheer Damon Baehrel's philosophy. (Writers and artists especially.) The film Field of Dreams put it this way: "If you build it, they will come." In Damon’s case, they certainly did.

Damon wasn’t kidding about preparing everything on his own farm. He makes dozens of varieties of aged cheeses, cured meats, flours, vinegars, pressed oils, butters and breads on premises.
Inspired by Damon’s seasonal eating, I checked out the interactive chart I have on my own foodie blog to see what exactly is "in season" in my area right now...

(If you would like to use this interactive chart, simply click here and scroll all the way down to the end of my blog. You’ll see the chart near the bottom of the main page and can dial in your own state to see what's in season now. Note: If your result says "nothing," then dial forward by month until you see a result or try a nearby state. In California and Florida, for example, you'll see many things in season.)

Foodie Magic 8 Ball...

For "New York" in "Late Feb.," my Foodie Magic 8-Ball Chart tells me the following foods are in season: onions, turnips, carrots, winter squash, apples, and potatoes.

Sure enough, I found a nice display of acorn squash in my local store. I prepared it my favorite way. And since maple syrup season is nearly upon us, Damon would be right on board with this recipe...

But first a little...

Damon Baehrel was honored last year by the James Beard Awards with a semifinalist nomination: Best Chef in Northeast Region. As it happens, the JB foundation will be announcing its 2014 award nomination list tomorrow, Feb. 19. Good luck to all the chefs and restaurants!

Cleo Coyle, who looks forward
to pouring a cuppa joe for
Daniel Boone (in the afterlife),
is author of The
Coffeehouse Mysteries 
Acorn Squash

Warm and buttery, dripping with maple syrup, this roasted acorn squash feels almost sinful to eat, yet there’s very little butter and maple syrup involved. Packed with nutrition and dietary fiber, it makes a wonderful "writer’s snack" for me on a fall or winter afternoon.

If you would rather not use butter and/or maple syrup, then lightly coat the squash with a neutral-tasting oil (canola or vegetable oil or even coconut oil if you like coconut flavor). This will protect the flesh against the high heat. You can eat it naked or sprinkle it with your favorite seasonings—be they nutmeg and cinnamon or chili and cayenne pepper. Or try a bit of orange juice, which is also delicious. 

 May you eat with joy and in good health! ~ Cleo                 

To download this recipe in a
PDF document that you can
print, save, or share,
click here.

HOW TO PICK AN ACORN SQUASH: Your squash should feel heavy in the hand for its size. Green is the most common variety. The skin should be dark green and dull (not shiny)—partial orange on the green skin is fine, but overall it should be more green than orange. It should also be free of moldy spots, and the skin should feel hard and never soft or mushy. An acorn squash does not need to be refrigerated. Stored in cool, dark places, it can keep for a month or more.

NUTRITION: Winter Squash is a good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Folate and Magnesium, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Thiamin, Potassium and Manganese. Even the starch is healthy. In recent  studies, it’s been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties. Read more here.


1 Acorn Squash

1 Tablespoon butter or margarine (1/2 T. for each squash half)

1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup (1-1/2 teaspoons for each half)

Pinch of kosher salt or coarse sea salt (optional)

Baking or roasting pan or glass baking dish (the pan should have high edges)


Step 1 – Cut and clean squash: Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise from stem to end, using the ribs as a guide (cut in line with the ribs and not across them). I cut the tough bottom off first, score it lightly and then move the knife around the scoring. That’s much easier than trying to force the knife through. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and stringy innards. The seeds make a great snack (see 
end of recipe).

Step 2 – Score and smear: Using a small knife, aggressively sore the insides of the squash halves in a checkerboard pattern. This simple step makes a big difference, allowing the butter and syrup to
better penetrate the flesh. 

Now gently smear the butter (1/2 T. for each half) over all exposed areas of the acorn flesh to protect it from the high heat. Drop the remaining butter into each cavity. (Optional – lightly sprinkle with coarse salt. For me, this makes a nice foil with the sweetness, but you can omit.) Drizzle 1 tsp. each of maple syrup around each cavity with the butter. Pour ½ teaspoon each into each cavity. Place these halves in a baking pan, as shown with the cut sides up.

Step 3 – Prep a water bath: The water is the magic key to the perfect roasting process with minimal butter and syrup, allowing the flesh to cook and caramelize without drying out or burning in your very hot oven. Add about 1/4 inch (or just a little less) of water to the bottom of your baking pan (which should have high sides) or glass baking dish.

Step 4 - Bake in your well pre-heated 400 degree F. oven for 1 hour. You may need to bake an additional 15 minutes or so, depending on your oven and the size of your squash and how many you cook at a time. Undercooking is the enemy here. You do not want a squash that has not cooked through and caramelized with that butter and maple syrup. So watch for the squash flesh to become very soft and the tops to become lightly browned (see my photos).

Step 5 – Spoon and serve: Remove the squash halves from the oven and spoon any visible syrup over the edges before serving.

Roasting Seeds: Just like pumpkin seeds, the seeds from a winter squash are delicious and nutritious. Wash off the stringy goo from the squash innards and dry them well. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Spread the seeds in a single layer. Salt them lightly if you like, and roast them right beside the acorn squash (at 400 degrees F.) for about 6 to 8 minutes.

Maple Roasted
Acorn Squash PDF
Click here to download
this recipe in a free PDF, and...

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

Now a National
Bestseller in Hardcover

A Coffeehouse Mystery 

*Starred Review* -Kirkus

"Top Pick"  -RT Book Reviews

"...a highly satisfying mystery."
-Publishers Weekly

See the book's
Recipe Guide
by clicking here.

* * * 

Coffeehouse Mystery
Free Title Checklist
(with mini plot summaries)

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

* * * 

Haunted Bookshop
Free Title Checklist,