Saturday, November 8, 2014

Thanksgiving: Acorn Squash Stuffed with White Beans & Kale

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. Focused on family, friends and being thankful - it eschews the commercial focus of so many other holidays. As a chef, of course, I also love that it involves cooking with the bounty of the harvest.

There are definitely a few standbys on my holiday table, but at least half are up for experimentation each year.

(Successful) Experiment #1: Squash sans butter and brown sugar. This recipe is a hearty, savory take on acorn squash that could serve as a main dish for any vegetarians at your table - or a delicious side for everyone else.

Acorn Squash Stuffed with White Beans & Kale

Acorn Squash Stuffed with White Beans & Kale

2 medium acorn squash
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small or medium onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons water*
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes or 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 large bunch of kale or chard, washed and roughly chopped
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
1/2 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see Note)
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. If using, add sundried tomatoes to a small bowl and add just enough boiling water to cover (~1/2 cup). Let rest for 10 minutes or until reconstituted, then finely slice. Keep liquid, you’ll use it later. Alternatively, you can use sundried tomatoes packed in oil. If you do, do not soak them in boiling water, just slice thinly.

3. Cut squash in half (from stem to slightly pointed end). Scoop seeds out with a tablespoon. Cut a small slice off the rounded, green (uncut) sides, to make a base that sits flat when you put them on a pan.

4. Place squash, flesh side up, on a microwave safe dish (generally, only 2 halves at a time will fit in the microwave). Brush exposed yellow-orange flesh with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave 5 minutes. Repeat with other two squash halves. This is just to shorten cooking time. If you prefer, you can cook entirely in the oven, but this will take 1-1/2 hours rather than the 20-30 minutes written below.

5. Transfer partially-cooked squash to baking sheet, flesh side up, and put into oven for 20-30 minutes while you cook the filling. Check to see if they are done with a fork, there should be very little resistance when the flesh is pierced. If there is a lot of resistance, return to oven for 10-15 more minutes and test again.

6. Heat large sauté pan, over medium high heat. Add 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. When warmed, reduce heat to medium and add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions start to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.

7. If using tomato paste, add now and cook stirring constantly 1 minute. Add kale and tomato soaking liquid, if you have it, or 2 tablespoons water. Season well with salt and pepper. Cook covered, stirring every minute for 3-5 minutes or until kale is tender. Add beans and sundried tomatoes, if using. Stir to combine. Add additional water, 1 tablespoon at at time, if things start to stick to the pan. Cook until beans are heated through (1-2 minutes).

8. In a small bowl, add bread crumbs, 1 Tablespoon of oil and a couple pinches of salt; stir well. Set aside.

9. Fill squash halves will kale mixture. Top with bread crumb mixture.

10. Turn broiler to low. Place baking sheet with stuffed squash under broiler (with ~3-4 inches space from top of squash to broiler) and broil until crumbs start to brown. Watch closely as they can burn quickly.
Finished, just out of the broiler - This is what the crumbs should look like after being toasted.

Serves: 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side.

*If using tomato paste, you will need additional water. You may need a couple of extra tablespoons of water regardless.

Note: I used 2 slices Good Seed bread, cut into 1-inch cubes and pulsed in the food processor until the size of crumbs you see in the picture above. This made a bit more than called for in  the recipe.

A giant bite waiting to be eaten

Nutrition facts for main dish serving (1/2 squash with filling). Calories 430, Fat 12g, Carbs 72g (Fiber 15g, Sugars 3g), Protein 15g, Vit A 429%, Vit C 316%, Calcium 32%, Iron 39%. Sodium depends on the amount of salt you add.

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