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TIP OF THE DAY: Stuffed Acorn Squash

Whole Acorn Squash
[1] Whole acorn squash (both photos courtesy Good Eggs).

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[2] Halved and seeded acorn squash.

 

Last night we were out with a group of friends, the majority of whom ordered healthy roast vegetable plates for dinner. Roasting vegetables at home arose as a topic, and surprise:

While most of us roasted sliced root vegetables, only two baked halved acorn or butternut squash.

The reason given: It’s difficult (and scary) to cut the hard squash with a knife. So they purchased already-peeled and diced squash.

Anyone with a sharp knife and a degree of caution can cut open a hard squash. Do not be intimidated by a vegetable!

Sharpen your knife and watch this video.

When you get comfortable with the process, you don’t even need to cut off the ends. We prefer to leave them on for aesthetic appeal, and use this technique—a rocking knife motion—to slice the squash in half.

Now there’s nothing wrong baking the squash halves with a bit of butter or oil, salt and pepper—or a drizzle of maple syrup.

But baked stuff squash is such a festive dish. You can stuff it with absolutely anything, from grains to other vegetables, as a first course or a vegetarian entrée. It’s a great Meatless Monday dish, but you can also add sausage or other meat.

One squash serves two people. The following recipe is from QVC’s chef David Venable.

The photo of the recipe is below the preparation instructions.

RECIPE: BAKED STUFFED ACORN SQUASH

Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • Salt and pepper
  •  
    For The Stuffing

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for coating squash
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup dry stuffing mix
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 bag (8.8 ounces) precooked long grain and wild rice blend
  • 1/2 cups grated Gruyère, Cheddar or substitute*
  • 1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped
  •  
    *Semi-firm cheese or semi-hard cheeses include American Swiss, Appenzeller, Asiago, Beaufort, Caciotta, Caerphilly, Cantal, Cheshire, Colby, Comte, Emmental, Fontina, Glouster, Gjetost, Jarlsberg, Caserri, Manchego, Tete de Moine andTomme d’Abondance, among others.
     
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and season the flesh of each squash with salt and pepper. Place the halves flesh-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until fork tender. While the squash is baking…

    2. MAKE the stuffing. Add 1 tablespoon oil to a skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onion and celery until cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the stuffing mix and cranberries. Stir and remove the pan from the heat. When the stuffing has cooled slightly…

    3. SPOON it into a medium-size bowl and add the rice, cheese and pecans. Mix until combined. When the squash has finished baking…

    4. TURN each squash half flesh-side up and spoon the stuffing into the cavity. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the stuffing is heated through and is golden brown on top.
     
    TIP: Whole acorn squash can be stored for up to a month in a cool, dry spot. Only cooked or cut acorn squash should be refrigerated.
     

     

    THE HISTORY OF ACORN SQUASH

    Squash is indigenous to Central and South America. It was introduced to the Spanish conquistadors in Mexico and to the English setters in Virginia and Massachusetts.

    It was easy to grow and hardy enough to store for months, providing a nutritious dietary staple throughout the winter.

    Acorn squash (Curcubita pepo, var. turbinata) is so called because its shape resembles an acorn. The most common variety is dark green in color, often with a splotch of orange on the side or top. Some varieties are variegated (multi-color) and newer varieties include the yellow Golden Acorn squash and white-skinned varieties.

    Like the other popular winter squash, butternut squash, the skin of an acorn squash is thick and hard, and it is an effort to peel it.

    But either squash is easily cut in half with a large, sharp knife. It can then be baked, plain or stuffed with grain, meat or vegetable mixtures.
     
    EATING ACORN SQUASH

    Acorn squash are smaller than butternut squash (acorn is one to two pounds, four to seven inches long), and half of an acorn makes a convenient individual portion. It is similar in flavor to butternut.

    While acorn squash is most commonly baked, it can also be microwaved, sautéed or steamed.

  • The seeds of the squash are toasted and eaten. (Trivia: Initially, the seeds were eaten instead of the flesh until plumper-fleshed varieties were bred.)
  • The yellow trumpet flowers that are produced before the squash is fully developed are also edible. They are stuffed and considered a delicacy.
  •  

    Stuffed Bake Acorn Squash

    quinoa-stuffed-acorn-squash-smellslikebrownies-230sq

    TOP PHOTO: Stuffed acorn squash, the recipe above. Photo courtesy QVC. BOTTOM PHOTO: Go trendy: Stuff acorn squash with quinoa and kale. Here’s a recipe from SmellsLikeBrownies.com.

  • The green tops, about three inches’ worth from the end of the squash, are also edible (but not the prickly stem). The squash greens are a popular vegetable in the Philippines. Unless you grow your own or your local farmer doesn’t remove them, you aren’t likely to see them for sale in the U.S.
  • Squash in salads. Don’t hesitate to add cooked squash to green salads, grains, omelets, and anyplace you’d like another level of flavor and color.
     
    Acorn squash is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins C and B, magnesium, and manganese. Surprisingly, because of the color of the flesh, it is not a good source of beta-carotene.
     
    SQUASH TRIVIA

  • The word “squash” comes from the Wampanoag Native American word, askutasquash, meaning “eaten raw or uncooked.” This may refer to the summer squash varieties, yellow squash and zucchini, which can be enjoyed raw. Summer squash, which belong to the same genus and species as most winter squash, are small, quick-growing varieties that are eaten before the rinds and seeds begin to harden.
  • There are three species of squash, all native to the Americas. Curcubita pepo includes acorn, butternut, pumpkin, summer squashes and others. Curcubita moschata, represented by the Cushaw, Japanese Pie, Large Cheese Pumpkins and Winter Crookneck Squashes arose, like Curcubita pepo, in Mexico and Central America. Both were and are important food, ranking next to maize and beans.Curcubita maxima, includes Boston Marrow, Delicious, Hubbard, Marblehead and Turks Turban, and apparently originated near the Andes, or in certain Andean valleys.
  • Before the arrival of Europeans, Curcubita pepoCurcubita moschata had been carried to all parts of North America that were conducive to growth. Many Native American tribes, particularly in the West, still grow a diversity of hardy squashes and pumpkins not to be found in our markets.
  • Squash was unknown in the Old World until the 16th century, brought back by the returning conquistadors. The oldest known prin record of it is dated 1591.
  • Much of canned pumpkin consists odf Curcubita moschata squash, not from the jack-o-lantern variety of pumpkin. The best commercially canned varieties are Boston Marrow and Delicious varieties.The flesh of these varieties is much richer and more nutritious than that of pumpkin.
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