Some foods lend themselves to standing up for a bowl or container. An important example is winter squash. These hard vegetables have a hard, hard skin or shell that often gives way to meat, which is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. When the squash is halved and seeded, then roasted in the oven, the outer shell softens but still retains its shape, while the meat becomes soft and sweet due to natural sugars. As a result, it becomes a half-complete meal when grains, such as rice and bulgur, or protein-rich quinoa are filled with seeds. The filling is versatile and can be enhanced with spices and other ingredients, such as steamed aromatics (onions, celery, garlic), dried fruits, nuts, cheese or ground beef.
There are lots of squash that I like to fill, including butternut squash, acorns, sweet pumpkins and squash. If the squash is small, you can serve it as a lid with the top – or if it’s too big, you can quarter it and fill it with a spoon no matter how you cut it. Yes, your full dish will look amazing and delicious.
Squash filled with quinoa and goat cheese.
2 acorn squash, half horizontally.
Freshly ground black pepper.
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped, about 1/4 cup.
3 cloves garlic, minced.
1 teaspoon thyme.
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice.
2 cups pre-cooked quinoa (or wild rice or bulgur)
1/3 cup dried cranberries.
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts.
2 tablespoons chopped Italian celery leaves, for further garnish.
1 teaspoon finely chopped orange zest.
1/2 cup goat cheese, split.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the squash meat with oil and salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking tray with parchment, cut off the sides, and fry for about 45 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
When frying squash, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook till soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the orange juice and dilute the pan.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the quinoa, cranberries, nuts, celery, orange zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper. Add cooking salt and more salt if desired. Stir gently in 1/4 cup goat cheese.