It’s a pleasure to find that the winter squashes I hauled home from Vermont this fall are still sound—and delicious, as it turns out. They sat patiently in a corner of the kitchen counter, with no special care taken to store them, and were ready to become a special winter dinner.
The recipe below for stuffed squash would be wonderful with any variety of winter squash or pumpkin, though the cooking time will vary with size and variety. Mine squash was a bumpy, turban-shaped kabocha—big enough to feed four easily. The seeds are also roastable if you’re looking for a snow day project.
The spicing I chose is eclectic: Mediterranean with some Indian heat. From there, my meat choice of lamb made sense, though the beauty of a stuffed squash recipe is you can use whatever ground meat you have on hand. To stretch the filling, add a cup cooked rice, small bread cubes or cracked wheat (bulgur) with at least one additional cup of liquid.
I generally microwave large squash to soften them before stuffing them but you can skip this step and simply put a bit more water around the squash in the baking dish and cook them longer. Just poke them with a fork to be sure they’re soft. Serve the stuffed squash halves individually or carefully scooped, drizzled with a little refreshing vinegar. Choose a slightly acid side dish, as well, such as a Moroccan-style grated carrot salad or fennel-orange salad.
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 very large or 2 medium-sized winter squash, such as acorn or kabocha
- 2 T. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium apple, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1-3 medium hot peppers, chopped (optional)
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. garam masala or good-quality curry powder
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes, ground cayenne or similar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
- balsamic vinegar to drizzle (optional)
Cut squash in half, and remove thin slice from bottom surface so the halves will sit flat in large baking dish. Scrape out seeds and membrane. With large squash, I like to microwave them cut side down for about 10 minutes, covered and with 1/4 inch water in dish, to assure that cook through.
Sauté vegetables in olive oil until softened. Add in spices and herbs, cooking few more minutes until fragrant. Add lamb, breaking up chunks, and cook until thoroughly browned. Add raisins, if using.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Turn over squash so flesh side is up. Add more water to bottom of baking dish. Pack as much lamb mix as possible into cavities. Cover and bake for 40 to 60 minutes, until the squash pierces easily with fork.
Before serving, drizzle balsamic vinegar over stuffing.