Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day 9: Pecan and Wild Rice Stuffed Squash

Up until a month ago I'd only eaten Acorn Squash after it was roasted and drowned in butter and brown sugar -- yuk!  Then one day I stopped off at Rick and Heather's to drop something off (or pick something up I don't know which) and Rick had made stuffed squash for dinner.  Heather offered me a bite, and it was delicious!  Ever since I've been thinking I should try making stuffed squash, so I was happy to discover this recipe in The New Whole Grains Cookbook.  There were a lot of steps to the dish, but nothing too challenging.  I cooked the full "stuffing" recipe, but baked only one squash (or two halves).  The stuffing is pretty tasty on it's own so I thought I'd eat it for lunch this week.

Now I am not a fan of wild rice.  They look like little bugs infesting my food, and I'm not wild about the texture.  The recipe suggested substituting the rice with buckwheat or quinoa, and I chose quinoa.  (You know the drill:  rinse well, 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid, cover and bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook for 15 minutes, take off heat for 5 minutes, fluff with fork.)

Also, I didn't have fresh sage so I substituted 1 tsp of ground sage, and I wasn't happy with the result.  Next time I'll be sure and use fresh sage.  I think I'll cut the pepper down to 1/2 tsp, too.  The combination of all that black pepper and the ground sage left a really strong, rather unpleasant aftertaste.  And I still don't have any dried marjoram (I guess I'll have to break down and buy some) so I used dried thyme instead.

The recipe called for the pecans to be ground into powder.  Now why would I want to do that?  I chopped them pretty fine, leaving some chunkier pieces.  They added a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

Ha!  I just realized I misread the recipe!  I mixed two line of ingredients together, and thought I was supposed to use 3 cups of fresh parsley!  Luckily, I only had about 2 cups, which I finely chopped and mixed in the stuffing.  It added a nice freshness, so I think I'll make that a permanent recipe change.

I served the squash with...wait for it...waaaait for it...a mixed green salad on the side (I know!  Who would have guessed?).  Paul said the squash was good, and that he liked it.  Not loved it, liked it.  AND that he would eat it if I made it again, but not with gusto.  Folks, that is about as close as my husband will ever get to actually saying he didn't like something -- and you heard it here first!  I on the other hand liked it (didn't love it -- liked it), but would like to make it again just to see if I can tweak it a bit.  So next time Paul is in the doghouse, guess what's for dinner!

Pecan and Wild Rice Stuffed Squash
The New Whole Grains Cookbook
Yield:  4 servings

2 small Sweet Dumpling Squash or Acorn Squash, 6 inches or less in diameter
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons fresh sage
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery, minced
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup pecan halves

     Preheat the oven to 400.  Oil two baking sheets.  Cut each squash in half from the stem to the tip.  Scoop out the seeds and place cut-side down on the baking sheets.  Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife.  Let cool.  Reduce the oven heat to 375.
     In a medium saucepan, cook the wild rice in the water, simmering until it is tender and starting to split.  If there is any excess water, drain the rice in a strainer.  Finely chop the sage and parsley.  In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the celery, onion, and sage over medium heat until just softened.  Stir in the parsley, marjoram, pepper, nutmeg, and salt, and take the pan off the heat.
     When the squash halves are cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, leaving a bit behind to keep the skins from tearing.  In a large bowl, mash the flesh coarsely and reserve.  Select 16 intact pecans halves for garnish, then use a food processor to grind the remaining pecans to powder.  Add the ground pecans, the sauteed mixture, and the wild rice to the squash in the bowl and mix thoroughly.  Stuff the mixture into the squash shells and top with the reserved pecan halves.  Place in a casserole or baking dish large enough to hold all the squash halves.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops feel firm to the touch.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day!  It's Thursday!  Correction -- it's Third Thursday!  So, I'll be going to the Asian Art Museum in Seattle with Heather during the day, and then that night there's an artist's reception for a show that I'm in.  I'm hoping I'll have time and energy to make tomorrow's dinner:  Orzo with Peas and Lemon-Herb Sauce.

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