Fall is my favorite time of the year. I look forward to getting up early Sunday morning then, going to the Farmer’s Market seeing mounds of squash stacked lovingly on the farmers tables to be sold.
Squash varieties include Queens Land Blue, Butternut, Tahitian, Delicata, Acorn, and Spaghetti to name a few. The Queens Land is the largest squash and tastes like a combination of pumpkin, butternut and acorn. It has the longest shelf life of any squash life lasting well up to over a year. The Butternut, a standard squash favorite, has a sweet and nutty flavor. The Tahitian is the Butternut’s big brother. It has a sweeter flavor and finer texture than it’s little brother. The Delicata tastes like a cross between a Yukon gold potato and a sweet potato, and has the shortest shelf life. When choosing a Delicata make sure to get a fully ripe one by looking for orange, not green stripes. The Acorn is another standard with a not so sweet flavor and grainy texture. The Spaghetti has a mild, buttery taste and texture like spaghetti, hence, the name.
Their vibrant orange color defines them as “Superfoods”, because they have a high nutritional value containing powerful plant chemicals or phytochemicals, such as antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, and betacarotine (very good for your eyes). Phytochemicals along with their high fiber content are vital in the prevention of heart disease, cancer (especially colon cancer), and diabetes.
2 cups quinoa
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups onion, diced
sea salt or Kosher salt
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped the size of raisins
1/4 cup dried currants
1/3 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
freshly ground black pepper
4 medium squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and membranes removed
extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
1. Adjust a rack to the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
2. Simmer the quinoa in 4 cups of water until fluffy, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. While the quinoa cooks, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened, stirring frequently, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, ginger, and sage.
4. Cover the pan and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes (add a tablespoon of water, if necessary, to prevent scorching.)
5. In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa and vegetables. Stir in the dried fruit, pumpkin seeds, nutmeg, and cinnamon, season with salt and pepper.
6. Brush the skin of the squash lightly with oil. Place the squash, cut side down, in a baking pan large enough to hold them in a snug single layer.
7. Pour 1/2-inch of boiling water into the pan and bake for 20 minutes (you want the squash to have softened slightly, but not completely). Transfer the squash to a plate and let rest until cool enough to handle.
8. Stuff the squash halves with the quinoa mixture, return them, stuffing-up, to the pan, and bake until the flesh can be easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 20 to 30 minutes more.
Yields: 8 servings. Serving size: ¼ acorn squash.