Update: The amazing photograph accompanying this post has been selected for Food Gawker! Congratulations, Craig, and thanks, Food Gawker!
As I publish yet another entry professing a love for all things gourd during the frozen-precipitation months, I feel it is time to admit something funny (for you) and, simultaneously, horrifying (for me): I am allergic to squash. I am NOT allergic to squash in the sense that if I eat cooked squash, I have some kind of reaction where different parts of my body burst out in hives and my throat opening narrows to occlude all possibility of breathing normally. (Fun fact: the science name for hives is “urticaria”—who knew?) Nope, I have eaten squash for a long time, and have never had a problem eating it.
It was only when I began cooking it that I noticed this issue. Frankly, the first time it happened, I attributed it to chance or some other encounter I’d had but couldn’t remember. But the second time, I thought to myself, Oh. Squash is doing this to you. Damn you, squash! Why must you treat me this way?! You see, I am allergic to touching raw squash—inside or out. So the first five times I cooked with squash, it went something like this:
(1) Make delicious food item involving (and likely centered around) squash.
(2) Notice a few hours later that the palm and fingers of my right hand are bright red and really warm.
(3) Goes away two days later, forget about it.
(4) Repeat every couple weeks, all winter.
Apparently, touching any part of squash resulted in some bizarre local immune response in the skin of my hand, which I figured out by realizing that the hand holding the knife (yes, I’m a sinister one, of course) was largely spared from the reaction, while the hand holding the squash received the full brunt of it.
Anyway, now I always wear gloves while cooking with squash. Lesson learned. Until I forget. So for this recipe, imagine me wearing gloves, but getting the rest of my outfit and countertop messy as usual. The recipe below is AMAZING, because it results in an entree-sized dish that is incredibly easy to make, and easy to make variations of for guests with specific needs/desires. I love making this for large numbers of people, because it’s also relatively cheap. For the veggie recipe below, I’d say you could feed ten people for under twenty bucks during full-on acorn-squash-sale season. The meaty one is only a couple bucks more. So, see? Magic!
Acorn Squash for Dinner
For both recipes: N/2 + 1 acorn squash, where N is the number of people you’re serving (this is a GREAT, easy recipe for dinner parties)
rosemary, fresh if possible
spinach or kale or swiss chard or Choy Sum
pecans, coarsely chopped
feta cheese, crumbled
chili powder (chipotle also works here)
spinach or kale or swiss chard or Choy Sum
Jack cheese (pepperjack is good), coarsely shredded
Step 1: Halve the squash, scoop out the seeds and, if you are smart enough to love squash seeds, throw out the goop and save the seeds (soaking in a bowl of salted water) for later. Line said squash up in a glass 9″x13″ pan or something similar—they LOVE to fall over and spill their guts all over, so try to wedge them in a way that that is unlikely to happen. Also, if you’re having trouble balancing the tops because of the stupid stem, you can usually pop it off with a little elbow grease. Or you could cut the squash longitudinally. I seriously just thought of that. I’ll have to try it next time. Oops.
Step 1a: If you’re making meaty squash, this is when you cook the meat. Take your Italian sausage (chorizo also a fine choice, depending on how spicy you like your meat, or ground sirloin if you’re not a pork eater) and put it in a pan on top of the stove—throw a dash of olive oil in there if you’re not using a nonstick pan. Add the spices, mix and mash with a wooden spoon, and cook on medium-high until slightly browned. Takes about 7 minutes, so you can chop other stuff while meat is cooking. When it’s done, take off of heat and set aside.
Step 2: Preheat oven to 350F. Rub the insides and exposed flesh of the hollowed out with olive oil for the meaty one; press about a tablespoon of butter into the walls of the squash for the veggie one. Sprinkle rosemary (destemmed) into the bottom of the veggie one and press gently into butter.
Step 3: Chop the greens you’ve chosen, and stuff a little bit into each squash, veggie or meaty. Mmmmmmm. Greens. Grind a little black pepper on top.
Step 4: For veggie ones, press crumbled feta on top of the greens and drizzle with a little honey and a couple drops of olive oil; finish off by pressing chopped pecans on top. For meaty ones, add meat, pressing down to make space for the cheese! Add cheese on top. This is when it’s important that all the squash are upright, because you can make a big ol’ pile of stuff that will cook down if they are standing up, or you can spill the ingredients all over if you give those squash an opportunity to fall sideways. (Another fun fact: did you know that acorn squash are the sneakiest species of gourd?)
Step 5: Cook at 350F for about an hour. Squash are great because you can tell when they’re done by stabbing them in the side with a fork—it should be really easy to get into the flesh of the squash (n.b., don’t use this method to check if your children are done with their homework, even if your pet name for them is “pumpkin”).
And there you have it, folks! Another recipe that can be modified according to your needs or your whims, is really easy to follow, doesn’t cost a lot of money, requires a relatively short amount of prep time, and doesn’t make a lot of dishes! I know, what would you do without me?