Thursday, October 26, 2017

Adorable Stuffed Honeynut Squash

[Insert by-now standard disclaimer/apology for dilatory blogging habits and hopes for more regular updates in the upcoming months. TL;DR: 2017 sucks beyond all reasonable suckage levels, and maintains so politic a state of evil that - with a very few exceptions - it will not admit any good part to intermingle with it. So it’s a bloomin’ miracle anyone even manages to wake up and wash themselves, let alone devise interesting meals to post on the internet.]

On a recent stop at our local health food store I spotted a basket of these adorable mini-butternut squashes. The produce boffin told me they’re a relatively new variety called honeynut, and gave them such a glowing recommendation that I brought a few home, where they sat on the kitchen table for a few days, awaiting their destiny.

Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood books were an important resource back in my nascent cooking days, and I briefly considered veganizing one of her many classic (albeit egg-&-dairy-laden) stuffed squash recipes, but decided instead to lighten things up and go freestyle. The result was a super-autumnal and surprisingly filling meal; I’d envisioned a half squash per person, but in the event we wound up getting eight servings from this recipe.

Honeynut squash has a sweeter, more intense flavor than regular butternut and a deeper orange color; it would be delicious simply baked with salt & pepper and some olive oil or Earth Balance. It’s also a lot easier to handle in terms of slicing and cutting, so I definitely see more of it in our future. That said, if you can’t find these little darlings, you could easily use any winter squash instead, with the cooking times adjusted accordingly.

Adorable Stuffed Honeynut Squash
~ 2 honeynut squashes, sliced lengthwise with seeds removed
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (I used baby bellas)
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2-3 slices whole grain bread, toasted and crumbled
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, marjoram, parsley
~ ½ tsp. each: sage, thyme
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ Dash nutmeg or mace
~ ½ cup water or vegetable stock (as needed)

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil.
~ Score the cut sides of the squashes and season well with salt and pepper; you can also rub a little olive oil into them if you like.
~ Place the squashes cut side down on the baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until easily pierced with a fork.
~ Remove from oven and set aside; when they are cool enough to handle, scoop out the cooked flesh, leaving about a ¼” around the rim.
~ Get a large skillet very hot, and sauté the mushrooms in 1 tbsp. of the olive oil, until browned and crispy. Remove from pan and set aside.
~ In the same skillet, sauté the onions, garlic, salt, marjoram, parsley, thyme, black pepper, and nutmeg (or mace!) over medium-high heat for 7-10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not browned.
~ Stir in the cooked mushrooms, crumbled bread, and cooked squash; mix well and continue cooking another 5 minutes, adding the water or stock as needed to get a “stuffing” consistency.
~ Divide the filling among the scooped-out squash skins, pressing down with a spoon to get it all in there.
~ Turn the oven up to 425 degrees and bake the filled squash, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes, or until browned to your liking (ovens vary wildly; you know yours best).
~ Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before serving.