Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Stuffed Squash

As I shared in my last post, fall is my favorite time of year in Utah. I think that "fall foods" are some of my favorites as well. For our family, the term, "fall foods," includes dishes such as soups, hot dishes, and other items that incorporate ingredients associated with the fall harvest. 
One of our favorite fall foods is stuffed acorn squash. The above picture, however, illustrates a butternut squash in addition to the acorn squash. This year, our acorn squash did not fare as well as they did last year, so we decided to try this recipe with one of our butternut squash. It turned out great. Take home message: Use the stuffing with the winter squash variety of your choice.

The stuffing recipe will fill about four average-size acorn squash (8 halves)
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1 pound Italian sausage (we prefer mild for this recipe)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon sage (we like using sage from the garden - see note about drying sage below)
1/4 to 1/2 cup pecans (optional - we like the extra texture that they give to the stuffing)

Preparing the squash: 
 Cut them in half. Scoop out the seeds and pulp. Place them, cut side down, in a pan with some water in the bottom. Poke holes in the top of the squash for ventilation. Bake at 350 degrees until they are baked - about 30 to 45 minutes.

Preparing the stuffing:
Cook the rice. You can cook the rices separately or together use 2 parts water to 1 part rice and boil for about 20 minutes.
Cook the sausage in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the sausage is nearly cooked, add the onion and garlic. Continue to cook until the onion is translucent.
Stir in the cooked rice, sage, and pecans. On a side note, the stuffing is very yummy by itself.

Putting it all together:
By this time, the squash should be ready for stuffing. Remove the squash from the oven. Turn them flesh side up, and fill with the stuffing. Return the pan to the oven and bake another 20 to 25 minutes until the squash and stuffing have heated through.

Drying sage:
We have enjoyed seasoning the food we cook with herbs from our garden. This year, I grew sage for the first time. In contrast to herbs such as parsley, oregano, or thyme, sage has large, heavy leaves. They do, however, dry easily and in much the same manner as any other herb. Here is a picture of my sage plant. It looks a bit scrawny because I had just picked a bunch of its leaves.
After picking the leaves, I wash them, pat them dry, and then place them in a pan on my kitchen windowsill to dry. Once they have dried up, I crumble them up into a container to use later. The crumbled sage leaves take on a distinct almost "heavy powder" consistency that is distinct from other crushed leaf herbs. The sage flavored our stuffed squash rather nicely, and I am looking forward to seasoning our cornbread stuffing with it on Thanksgiving.
Sage leaves set out to dry 
Crumbled sage leaves ready for use