Friday, October 23, 2009

Fall food...

Fall doesn't start in San Diego until November. Now, I realize that November is just around the corner, but every year around this time, I get antsy for fall food. I remember hunting for boletus mushrooms in New Mexico, which were always plentiful a week or two after the summer rains. Depending upon the year, that could make them pop out any time between August and the end of September. Mushrooms always made it into our fall menus. As did squash. We never sprayed our garden with pesticides, so we did battle with squash bugs all summer -- horrid pale things which latched on to every squash and squash stem. Just seeing them gave me the creeps and turned me murderous. Soapy water, alcohol and water - anything that would kill them and leave the plants with no poisonous residue - I was on it!

Having spent 2 weeks of eating mostly beef in Montana and Wyoming, I decided that my body needed a break. I needed a satisfying vegetarian meal. And having seen some gorgeous fall scenery in Wyoming and South Dakota, I knew that I needed the fall food to go with it.
I don't know about you, but when I look at scenes like this one, I find myself wanting foods that, at the very least, compliment the colors. There are so many fantastic squashes at the market these days. I could probably do a post every day for a week on a different winter squash, and never repeat myself and never get bored. And truth be told, the recipe I came up with would work well with any winter squash.This recipe all came together after I had been cooking with a friend a couple of weeks ago. We wound up making a red rice dish with lemon zest and dates which worked beautifully with the entree that evening (5 spice rubbed pork spare ribs). I made something similar several days later, only using wild and brown rice instead of the red rice. So I had these leftovers, you see.... And that, for me, is where some of my favorite meals start.

Here's a recipe which replicates, to the best of my ability, what I did. I leave you to your own imagination after that........

1 medium acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 sprays of cooking spray
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup cooked wild and brown rice mixed
1/3 cup almonds, toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup dried dates, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste


Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Place squash cut side up on a baking sheet, spray with cooking oil over the tops and insides of the squash halves, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven until just fork tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon of the melted butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it foams, add the onion and celery, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in thyme and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove from heat and stir in the rice, almonds and dates and lemon zest.

Divide the rice filling among the roasted squash halves (about 1/2 cup for each) and drizzle an additional TBS of melted butter over top, if desired. Continue roasting until the squash is completely fork tender, the edges have started to brown, and the filling is heated through, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Kitchen Notes:

I don't know about you, but I've just recently learned that sawing a winter squash in half with a serrated knife is the way to go. I'm amazed that I still have all my fingers, after all these years of using a sharp knife - either a cleaver of a good, strong chef's knife!


Penny said...

Toni, The squash dish sounds very satisfying. I'll have to try the serrated knife trick. I hate to peel butternut squash. We had to peel several one time for a big dinner and my fingers became pruny, puckery and yellow. Plus it took forever. But eating winter squash makes it all worth it.

Thistlemoon said...

I love your squash creations! I agree the serrated knife trick is a great tip! Thanks!

Unknown said...

Penny - I agree with you - I hate peeling butternut squash. But I adore butternut squash soup....

Jenn - Thanks! I just learned it, and felt so...DUH! for not having thought of it before!

Karine said...

Great way to use acorn squash! Thanks for sharing :)

Joanne said...

Whoa I love the sound of this squash recipe. It is my favorite vegetable and I am always looking for new ways to cook it.

I have come close to cutting off my fingers many a time when dealing with winter squash. That stuff gives you quite a work out!

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. you've got some great food on here and I love your writing style!

NKP said...

I love squash. Great photos!

Bill Medifast said...

Squash is my favorite thing to eat every year. There are endless amounts of ways you can cook them and this recipe is on my menu for the next squash I make. I seem to eat them as a meal on their own so this seems like the perfect idea.

Thanks a lot,

Bill M.