Robin Anish | The Table Is Set: Stuff acorn squash along with turkey

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Several years ago, I was surprised and delighted to discover a young oak tree had sprouted in my backyard.

I love trees so much. I appreciate their place in nature, and I marvel at their beauty. So when I spotted that sapling oak, I felt like I was given a most wonderful gift! You see, my home is surrounded by many tall pine trees that overshadow any other trees that might attempt to settle in among them. But, lo and behold, there it was, a young oak tree determined to become a mighty oak tree, and I will take great pleasure in nurturing that little oak along the way.

I wondered if an oak tree's heavy yield of acorns were edible. With a bit of research, I learned that they are edible but, apparently, acorns have a taste that only a squirrel could truly love. Knowing that, I'll stick to a much more appetizing fall crop — the acorn squash.

Baked with a bit of butter and brown sugar, acorn squash is a delicious staple of most holiday dinners. But cut an acorn squash in half, clean out the seeds and what do you see? I see a mini-casserole dish in which anything from macaroni and cheese to chicken pot pie can be baked.

The sweetness of the squash pairs so well with many flavors, both sweet and savory, so you could bake an individual serving of shepherd's pie for dinner or bread pudding for dessert in an acorn squash. Instead of stuffing peppers, use the same filling to stuff squash.

Spicy, garlicy Italian sausage and rigatoni baked in a sweet squash is absolutely delicious. Some great vegetarian recipes are made even better when baked in a squash half.

Have some fun with this. Experiment with different fillings and this Thanksgiving, don't stuff the bird stuff an acorn squash!

Sweet and savory stuffed acorn squash

INGREDIENTS:


3 acorn squash, halved horizontally and pre-baked until barely tender.

Stuffing:

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, diced

1 pound of bulk breakfast sausage

1 large golden delicious apple, cored and diced

1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1 teaspoon of salt or to taste

ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, minced

6 cups seasoned corned bread stuffing mix such as Pepperidge Farm

4 tablespoons of melted butter

2 cups of turkey or chicken stock



DIRECTIONS:


Saute onions and celery in oil over medium heat, until they start to soften. Add sausage, breaking up as it cooks. Stir apples and cranberries, salt, pepper and parsley into cooked sausage mixture.

In a large bowl, combine stuffing mix, sausage mixture and melted butter. Stir in enough stock to make a moist, but not soggy stuffing. Taste for seasoning.

Fill squash halves, arrange in a baking pan, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes and serve.

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