Wednesday, November 15, 2023

A Vegetarian Centerpiece Worthy of the Holiday Table

squash has been grossly underutilized in our general cuisine.  It ready availability should make it our goto veggie.  This is another stuffed squash attempting to add flavor to a low flavor squash flesh.

we ourselve grew plenty of these for sale, but rarely ate them.  There was always something better to eat.  we should have been first adopters.  There was always a baby potato and baby carrot season.  Baby squash, not so much.

Do note the addition of shitake mushrooms or any mushrooms will create a meaty dish.  that will make the stuffing great.  Now do we have a herbal pesta able to flavor the squash flesh?  That could do it.

A Vegetarian Centerpiece Worthy of the Holiday Table

Stuffed acorn squash are colorful, festive, and satisfying for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.The squash can be roasted and stuffed in advance of serving for easy entertaining. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)


Every holiday meal deserves a festive centerpiece. While a turkey is the usual stunner, there's room for more than one showstopper. An elaborate vegetarian dish can be equally decorative, providing a colorful and festive platter for both vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.

Winter squash are natural, vibrant vessels ideal for stuffing with wholesome grains, dried fruit, and nuts. There are many squash varieties that love to be stuffed, including butternut, acorn, and kabocha. If the squash are small, you can serve them individually with their tops as a lid, or if they are large, you can halve or quarter them and spoon the filling over the centers, relying on the serving platter to catch the overflow.

Acorn squash are tidy vessels for this recipe. When cooked until very tender, their shell is edible. They can easily serve one as a main course or be split to share. Shiitake mushrooms add a satisfying, meatlike texture to the veggie filling and provide a savory, umami depth of flavor. Choose your favorite grain, such as quinoa, rice, farro, or bulgur. The squash can be roasted and stuffed in advance of serving for easy entertaining.

4The squash can be roasted and stuffed in advance of serving for easy entertaining. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Stuffed Acorn Squash With Quinoa, Shiitakes, and CranberriesActive time: 45 minutes Total time: 1 hour

Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish2 acorn squash, halved horizontally

Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Maple syrup, for brushing
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, halved if large, then thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 cups precooked grain, such as quinoa or brown rice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush the squash flesh with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a baking tray lined with parchment, cut sides down, and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the insides with maple syrup. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

While the squash halves are roasting, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they release their juices and begin to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the shallots and sauté until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the orange juice to deglaze the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked grains, cranberries, pecans, parsley, orange zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if desired.

Fill the squash halves with the grain mixture. (The squash may be prepared in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.)

Arrange the squash on a baking tray. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 to 15 minutes to heat through. Serve warm, garnished with parsley.

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