We have reached the point where most of our fresh summer produce has been pickled or canned. The days are getting shorter, and much of our gardens are going into hibernation. The ocean has started to turn to that deep wintry blue that signifies colder temperatures along the coast. Our palettes have gone from craving the fresh acidity of summer fruit to seeking the warm depth of flavor brought only by components of the fall and winter harvest. One of my favorite parts of our current local harvest is winter squash. While this type of squash can be purchased year-round, now through the winter months would be when its season peaks (which leads to both flavor and cost efficiency). Of all the winter squashes, acorn squash has the shortest shelf life, making its harvest season the best season to consume it as well.
Although acorn squash perishes the most quickly, it is generally the easiest to grow, producing an entirely edible plant — the squash’s flesh, leaves, seeds, and skin can all be consumed. When purchasing acorn squash from the store, be sure to avoid those with a dark green or bright orange color; a perfectly ripe acorn squash will be lighter green in color, with a small patch of orange. Acorn squash has a similar sweet and nutty flavor to butternut squash, with a bit of a tougher and more fibrous consistency. This means, in my opinion, that it holds its own as a component to a dish, where butternut squash is better used in purées or soups. Acorn squash is also high in nutrients, and packed with potassium, vitamin A, fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium. Because of this, it is only right that we fill it with all the flavorful ingredients we can, to create my favorite autumn dish, Stuffed and Savory Acorn Squash.
Stuffed and Savory Acorn Squash
2 acorn squash
1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
2 parsnips, skinned and chopped
1 lb. ground turkey
1 sweet onion, diced
1¾ cup chicken broth
1 cup instant brown rice
2 tsp. butter
1 cup Fontina cheese
½ cup pine nuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut each acorn squash lengthwise, and remove seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin to taste. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet, and bake for 30 minutes. Spread the chopped Brussels sprouts and parsnips on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake for 20 minutes.
While the squash and veggies are baking, prepare your stuffing. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and saute until most pieces are translucent. Add ground turkey, pepper, salt, cumin, smoked paprika, and cinnamon to taste. Mash the turkey with a fork, and cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes; stir, and cook until the meat is cooked through (it should be completely white in color, with no pink remaining).
Meanwhile, add the chicken broth, rice, and butter to a pot and bring to a boil. Once it has reached a rolling boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes undisturbed, then fluff with a fork. Once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice, add the ground turkey. Remove the squash and vegetables from the oven, and combine the Brussels sprouts and parsnips with the turkey and rice. Flip the acorn squashes, and scoop about a half-cup of rice mixture into each. Sprinkle each with Fontina cheese and top with pine nuts. Return to the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese and nuts are golden brown.