Winter squash can be intimidating. There are a number of varieties, all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors. does one cut it, or peel it? And what on earth is that gunk that butternut squash leave on your hands post-peeling - the sap that makes your skin peel off? Almost makes me not want to battle these wonderful winter starches. But they're really worth it...
There are a number of ways to prepare winter squashes. Slice it in half, scoop out the seeds, and cost the halves for a puree with a touch of caramelized depth. Or cube up the pieces and throw it in the steamer for a lighter puree. I love these tips, or will often peel, cube, and roast the vegetable-du-jour it until each piece is crispy in the corner, tender inside, and with a rich caramelized color all around. Delicious. But even then, after a couple of times of making this (I've used it in pasta, risotto, omelettes, salads, and more), it can get monotonous.
For someone gluten- and corn-free like me, finding healthy carbohydrates to satisfy my hankering can be a challenge. Squash saves the day, so I'm always thinking of new ways to serve up this starch (My vegetables aren't vegetables unless they're green!)
Stuffed squash is one of my new favorite go-tos. Start with some sausage, or for vegetarians, a base of brown rice. Supplement with sweeteners (honey or maple syrup) and spices as you wish, then add a variety of flavorings from cherries and pine nuts to something exotic, like pineapple, coconut, and chopped macadamia nuts. You can even try greens — kale, miso, and a garnish of scallion sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
Dried Cherry and Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash, sliced in half and seeds scooped out
4 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing, plus more for sautéing
4 tablespoons maple syrup, for brushing
Salt, to taste
2 large yellow onions, finely diced
6 turkey sausage links, removed from casings
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup pinenuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Trim off the bottom of each squash half so each sits flat. Brush with olive oil and maple syrup. Season with salt and bake for about 1 hour, or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions and turn the heat to medium high. Cook for about 10 minutes or until onions are golden and translucent. Season with a pinch of salt and add the turkey sausage. Cook about 10 minutes, or until the meat is cooked most of the way through. Add the cherries and remove from heat. Set aside.
Once the squash is tender, fill each with stuffing. Bake for about 10 minutes, until everything is warmed through. Garnish with pinenuts and serve immediately.