Stuffed to the Gills
I’m pretty sure we’re all in the same boat here. A boat, that is, which requires a person to steer, hoist the sails, scrub the deck, cook the chow, climb the crow’s nest, and maintain some semblance of order all at the same time! And if I’m the only one in this boat, someone please send help!
Thanks to this juggling act, I’ve had more than a few casualties in the kitchen. By casualties, I mean two things. First, there are the vegetable casualties that go rotten or dry out into unrecognizable lumps because I couldn’t get around to using them in time. The first acorn squash I had earlier this fall met with such a fate, much to my dismay as I had a lovely soup in mind for it. The other causalty is my nutrition. Despite what this blog might lead you to believe, there are many evenings when I either eat nothing or eat way too much of the wrong thing because I’m just too pressed for time to make myself the correctly proportioned and balanced plate.
Last night was shaping up to be a one-two punch. My second acorn squash was about to head the way of the first. I had planned to stuff it with two of my favorite foods, Israeli couscous and soy bacon. But I was late getting out of work and there were errands to run, not to mention the most bitterly cold headwind to slow me down on my bike ride home. Tired and hungry, I just about threw in the towel by eating popcorn for dinner (it wouldn’t have been the first time, I assure you). Still, I didn’t want to waste another gorgeous acorn squash and didn’t know if I’d be able to get another locally grown one if I did.
Here’s where the light bulb would go off in the cartoon scene where Elmer Fudd thinks he’s finally got a way to outsmart Buggsy. I’ve always baked my squash, which takes quite awhile. Surely the microwave would cut down on that time, right? Boy, does it! Instead of an hour, the squash got zapped for just under five minutes and was ready to be stuffed and then baked off in the oven for a few minutes to bring all the flavors together. Cooking the couscous took longer than the squash. If you have some couscous cooked beforehand, this meal could be ready in about 20 minutes. Rachel Ray would be so proud…
While shortcuts in the kitchen can sometimes compromise taste, I didn’t notice any difference at all in my microwaved acorn squash, perhaps because the couscous stuffing is so flavorful. All I know for sure is that by the time I finished eating, I was happily stuffed myself and glad to have avoided two more kitchen casualties.
If you have the time and prefer the taste of baked vegetables to those steamed in the microwave, cut squash as directed and place upside down in a baking dish with just enough water to cover the bottom of the dish. Bake at 350 F for about 40 minutes until a sharp knife easily slides into the squash. Don’t let the squash get too soft though as it will bake more after being stuffed. Proceed with recipe as directed.
STUFFED ACORN SQUASH
A Straight from the Farm Original
1 large acorn squash
1 c. Israeli couscous
1 small apple, diced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 c. fat free sour cream
1/4 c. grated parmesan or asagio cheese
6 strips of (soy) bacon, cooked
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t. fresh or dried thyme
1/4 t. crushed coriander seeds (optional)
Toast couscous in a skillet over medium-high heat until it starts to turn golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, being sure to shake the skillet occasionally to toss. Meanwhile, bring 3 cups of salted water to a boil. Place toasted couscous in boiling water and boil uncovered for approximately 15-20 minutes until the majority of the water has been absorbed and couscous is soft.
Cut acorn squash in half across and remove seeds. Place cut side down on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high for 4 1/2 minutes in the microwave. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a medium bowl, mix together minced shallot, diced apple, grated cheese, thyme, coriander (if using) and sour cream. Add cooked couscous and stir to combine. Crumble bacon into bowl and stir gently just until incorporated. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Trim just enough off the ends of the squash halves to ensure they can sit up like cups. Fill with couscous mixture and place in small baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes for flavors to combine.
Remove from oven and serve garnished with a sprig of fresh herbs. Serve two halves for a main dish or one half as a side. Any extra stuffing makes a great lunch the next day.