Monday, November 8, 2010

Ghoulishly Good Stuffed Squash

Here in New England, a fascinating thing happens on the first of November. Seemingly overnight, there's a shift from late fall to early winter, and before the pumpkins and witches have been properly put away we're reminded of how cold it's going to get, and how nice it is to be inside a warm kitchen. The latter is especially true if there are orange root vegetables involved; lord knows I love my greens, but there's something about this last gasp of autumn that makes a person want to cook foods that match the rapidly-disappearing foliage. Winter squash is just such an ingredient, and there are enough varieties that you can easily use them throughout the cold months, and never run out of things to do. This Halloween, I hit some sort of squash-related multi-tasking sweet spot: spending the afternoon carving jack o' lanterns, and the evening stuffing and roasting some beautiful butternut squash.

I think my first exposure to stuffed squash was probably the "comprehensively stuffed" version in the original Moosewood Cookbook, which - true to that franchise's earthy, crunchy aesthetic - featured raisins, apricots, wheat germ, and various seeds and nuts, in addition to a copious quantity of cheese. It's a good recipe, if a bit of a gut-bomb; this version is a bit lighter, with a sweet curry vibe that's more "Jamaica" than "Ithaca." As it happened, I was fresh out of green leafies the night I made it, but next time I may include some chopped kale, spinach, or collards in the filling to round out the whole orange:green balance thing. As it was, this turned out to be a great main course, and with some red beans and rice on the side, it was a perfect dinner on a blustery All Hallow's Eve (the occasional interruption by ghouls, goblins, and fairy princesses notwithstanding).

Ghoulishly Good Stuffed Squash
~ 1 quite large, or 3 small butternut squash
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tbsp. grated ginger
~ 1 10 oz. package mushrooms, chopped
~ 1 tbsp. Jamaican curry powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, allspice
~ 1/4 tsp.: mace or nutmeg
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
~ 1 cup coconut milk
~ 1 tsp. hot sauce (more to taste)
~ 2 cups panko crumbs, divided
~ Paprika for garnish

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
~ Split the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Score the flesh of the squash, making 1/2-inch deep cuts through it one way and then the other (in a checker-board pattern).
~ Arrange the squash halves cut side up on a cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees oven for about 45 minutes, until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
~ When the squash is cool enough to handle, use a spoon to gently scoop the flesh from the shells (reserving the shells; be careful not to break them!). Set aside.
~ While your squash is baking, pour the oil into a large, deep skillet, and saute the onion, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
~ Add the mushrooms and dry seasonings, and cook another 5-7 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are beginning to brown.
~ Stir in the walnuts, coconut milk, hot sauce, and cooked squash. Mix until well combined and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often.
~ Stir in 1.5 cups of the panko, cook another minute or two, then remove from heat.
~ Place the reserved shells on a greased cookie sheet, and spoon the filling into them.
~ Top the stuffed squash with the remaining 1/2 cup of panko and a sprinkle of parsley and paprika for garnish.
~ Bake at 400 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes, or until nicely browned.
~ Allow to cool slightly before cutting into slices and serving. Serve with rice and (optimally) a pile of leafy greens.


  1. I couldn't agree more about the November induced orange-veggie-lust. I love winter squashes in almost every way imaginable.

    Also, I just wanted mentioned how happy it makes me when a vegetable is the main course. The one word answer to any "what's for diner" query should always be the name of a vegetable!

  2. Doug - "almost" every way imaginable? You intrigue me...!

  3. Well... I guess I'll just let you do some imagining of your own!

  4. Oh wow. I made some caramelized onions to go on top while the whole thing was in the oven and...I think I might eat nothing but this all winter long.