stuffed acorn squash (the winner!)

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I am delighted to announce that the winner of the 2014 Part of the Main contest is Vanessa, for her contribution Stuffed Acorn Squash!

I loved this entry for its creativity. Finding wintery vegetarian meals that aren’t soups is as challenging as finding summer ones that aren’t salads. Vanessa, the contributor of this recipe, had it first as a dish for a vegetarian Thanksgiving: that time of year would be perfect. We thought it was absolutely delicious. I’ll post the recipe and how we made it with a few photos, but the original can be found right here at Patricia & Carolyn. For contributing it to the contest, a copy of the new cookbook Meatless by Martha Stewart Living is even now speeding its way across the country to Vanessa.

The recipe boasts few, all-fresh ingredients and an unusual combination of flavors. We made it exactly as written, only modifying it in one unavoidable way: at the last minute I realized I only had white quinoa left, not red. (Testing a few dozen quinoa recipes, anyone?)

The contributor suggested serving with bread and a big salad. We had it with asparagus and blueberry muffins. Either way it is delicious!

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Ingredients (to serve 4)
2 small acorn squash
2 T / 30 g butter
1 T / 15 ml olive oil
1⁄4 t / 1 g cinnamon
Pinch of ground cardamom (can substitute nutmeg, we did a pinch of both)
1 1/2 cups / 325 ml water
2/3 c / 150 g red quinoa (we used white, adjust cooking time accordingly)
3 T / 45 g toasted salted cashew pieces
2 T / 30 g diced dried apricots
4 t / 20 g chopped fresh mint

IMG_2462Halve the squash and scrape out seeds and strings. I always use a grapefruit spoon for this kind of thing. Place the halves cut-side down in a baking dish with about a centimeter of water, bake at 400 F/200 C for about 35 minutes, until the squash is very tender. Check that it doesn’t run out of water. {You can toss the seeds with a drop of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt and roast them at the same time, they will be crunchy and bitter and delicious. If you don’t forget about them and burn them. Who does that, seriously. Me.}

IMG_2472You can toast the cashew pieces at the same time, about five minutes with a stir or two.

IMG_2467Whisk the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it turns lightly brown and has that nutty browned-butter smell, about five minutes. Pour into a medium bowl and whisk in the olive oil, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, if using.

Chop the apricots, cashews, and mint. Keep, I think, a few micro-leaves of mint for a garnish.

IMG_2469Put the water and quinoa in the saucepan and boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 17 minutes (less for white quinoa, see package). Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Then mix about 2 cups (next time I would do less, about 1 1/2 cups) of it into the bowl with the browned butter, stir in cashews, apricots, and mint. Keep warm until squash is ready.

IMG_2476Place the squash halves in a serving dish and stuff with the mixture. (Note: we agreed that an improvement next time would be to first season the squash cavity with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.)

Serve hot, enjoy! We did.

There are seven more stunning vegetarian recipes coming from the loyal souls of the Flexitarian contest. Can you believe it? Plus a bonus recipe at the end.

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