From the Kitchen – Embracing the Season

There’s something about this time of year that makes me want to hunker down in the kitchen and create hearty meals. It’s the season for soups, for stews, for roast dinners with apple crumble for dessert. It’s when aromatic steam envelops you as you stir the mixture on the stove; it’s when your glasses fog up as you open the oven door to check how the casserole is faring. And while the weather may be cold and rainy outside, you’re creating warmth inside. There’s something magical about that, about the process of making a meal.

I hadn’t really gotten into cooking with squash until the past few years, when I started to discover a number of fabulous concoctions from some favorite cookbooks and websites. With this recipe you use the acorn squash as not only a very tasty part of the meal but it’s also the delivery system for a lemony, herby, cheesy, yummy rice and bean stuffing. It can be the main part of a vegetarian meal, or a side dish for a more substantial event.

What I love about this recipe is that it is infinitely adaptable. You can add more mushrooms or onions if you have a hankering for those earthier flavours; you could leave out the beans or throw in a different type. If you lean towards a bit of sweetness in the mix, what about corn or chopped apple? If you want to add some meaty goodness, toss in chunks of sautéed spicy sausage. That’s what cooking can be about: taking what you enjoy and working in your own personality.

What’s also great about squash is not only that they’re grown locally, but they also look so darn good when they are stuffed, baked and sitting on a platter. They are beautiful, seasonal, tasty and make an attractive edible serving container. So, what’s not to love about embracing squash and the season?

Rice, Bean & Herb Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 medium acorn squash (about 1½ pounds each)
olive oil, salt, pepper

Stuffing:
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups sliced mushrooms; any varieties you prefer
salt, pepper
6 tbsp butter
2 shallots, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups water
1¼ cups uncooked wild rice blend
1 (19 ounce/540 ml) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
juice of 1 lemon
½ cup shaved manchego or parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet or pan with parchment or foil for easier clean up.
To prepare squash, use a sharp knife to slice through each from tip to stem. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits inside and discard these. Cut along one of the channels to keep it easier.

Place squash halves cut side up on lined pan. Drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil over the squash; rub the oil into the cut sides of the squash. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Turn them over so cut sides are down against the pan. Bake until squash flesh is easily pierced with a fork, about 40 minutes. Leave oven on.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes, then stir and continue cooking until mushrooms start to caramelize, about 3 more minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add butter, sliced shallots, garlic, half the chopped basil, the thyme and sage. Cook, stirring a bit, until shallots are soft and starting to caramelize as well, about 5-6 minutes.

Pour in 2 cups of water and the wine; bring to boil over high heat. Stir in rice, cover pan, reduce heat to simmer. Continue simmering until rice softens up and most of the liquid has evaporated, 50-55 minutes. If you need to, add a bit more water, but I haven’t found this to be an issue. Remove pan from heat, stir in beans, lemon juice, ¼ cup of the cheese and rest of the basil.

Turn cooked acorn squash halves right side up; scoop filling into each squash half. You might have too much; it depends on the size of the squash. Keep extra for another day. Sprinkle top of each squash with rest of cheese. Return to oven; bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden.

Recipe adapted and combined from:

Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash

Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash


Half Baked Harvest Super Simple by Tieghan Gerard

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