It's time for another Royal Foodie Joust over at the Leftover Queen's Foodie Forum. Last month's winner, Stickygooeycreamychewy, produced an intriguing Gorgonzola, Fennel and Pear Tart using the required ingredients of fennel, parsley and dairy and as part of her Joust prize, she got the honor of picking the ingredients for the October Joust: acorn squash, oranges and sage.
As usual, I was able to think of many recipe options to combine two of the ingredients, but the oranges had me stumped. I kept thinking of sweet squash options and savory squashes, but I couldn't reconcile the two until I had the idea that it might be fun to have both sweet and savory flavors cuddling next to each other in the same dish. The sculptural beauty of the acorn squash was also not to be overlooked. Aren't they sexy squashes?
So I tried out some ideas on my willing Crispy Cook guinea pig, husband Dan, and after a bit of back and forth taste testing, I ended up with two squash fillings canoodling with each other in their heart-shaped squash love nest. The rice base contains baked acorn squash, sauteed mushrooms and scallions and sage and is topped with a slightly sweet and very aromatic squash-orange puree with toasted walnuts. It's like having your dessert first and then plowing through to the main course, and the two fillings also blend nicely together on the same fork. Without further ado, here's the recipe:
Double-Stuffed, Twice-Baked Acorn Squash
2 medium acorn squashes
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
Zest of one orange
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 lb. mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1 cup cooked rice
Cut acorn squash in half. You'll aim for 2 equal halves, but if your cleaver aim is poor, as mine is with this roly-poly squash, you'll end up with one much larger half. That's okay, too, because I just ended up cooking all four squash halves and then scooping out the flesh of the skinny halves to use for filling the love nest.
Back to the squash. Scoop out seeds and pulp with a teaspoon and then place in a lightly oiled baking pan, cut side down. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, until softened, but not mushy-soft. Let cool.
Scoop out flesh from acorn squash halves, making sure to leave at least 1/4 inch of flesh remaining behind to provide the superstructure for your stuffing. Divide squash flesh in half.
For the first half of the stuffing, add first part of baked squash with orange juice, orange zest, nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon. This will not be a super sweet mixture as you might be used to when making sweetened, mashed acorn squash, but later on, when this aromatic stuffing mixes with the savory second stuffing, the flavors meld beautifully.
Take the other half of your squash flesh and mash in a bowl. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a skillet and heat. Add sliced scallions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add chopped mushrooms, and cook, stirring, another 3-4 minutes. Add mashed squash and cooked rice and heat through. Season with sage, salt and pepper.
Stuff acorn squash halves with a base layer of the rice stuffing and then top with citrusy squash. Score with tines of a fork for a decorative top and top with sage sprig, if desired.
Place bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.
Serves 4. (or 2 hefty servings if you hack up your squash unequally as I did).
This would make a terrific vegan entree for any holiday meal, perhaps accompanied by an herbed mushroom gravy.