Squash can be daunting in many regards.
First, there are just so many varieties of squash, winter squash, summer squash, of all different shapes and sizes. You might wonder where to even begin when it comes to chopping a squash, let alone cooking one. I’ll be the first to admit that it can take a while to warm up to squash. Beyond just its strange, and at times hard, exterior, squash itself has an acquired taste. It took me ages to even eat zucchinis, the summer squash, arguably the least-daunting of the squashes.
However, once you get past the initial fright, squash is delightfully versatile and fun to prepare.
Acorn squash is quite aptly named, considering it looks just like a large, dark green acorn. You may be wondering if it does, in fact, require a team of scientists to dismantle one, and – if that’s the case – if it’s even worth it to try cooking one after work, when you’re exhausted and don’t want to trifle with alien vegetables. Well, I can’t make that call for you, but I can at least shed some light on a fun way to prepare them, should you rack up the nerve. (And, I promise you, it doesn’t require that much nerve!)
Here is my 12-step program to taming – I mean preparing – and cooking this stuffed acorn squash recipe:
- You want to use a sharp, heavy-duty knife when cutting into squash. Squashes can be unforgiving, and a dull blade will not only make cutting harder, it just creates a greater margin for error. You want to get the cuts right on the first (or second) try; no fussing
- On a similar note, make sure your chopping block has a slip-proof surface, and that it’s guaranteed not to move around while you’re attempting to dismantle your squash. The last thing you want is the rug (or in this case, chopping block) to be pulled from underneath you
- For this recipe, you’re cutting the acorn squash crosswise. An easy way to do this is to make an incision near the stem and follow it along the seam or ridge. Once you’ve run your knife along the whole squash, it should be fairly easy to pull it apart.
- Once you do crack into your squash, discard the seeds to create the “bowl” of the squash. Don’t worry if the bowl turns out to be smaller than anticipated; you can always scoop some of the flesh out after it’s roasted.
- For this particular recipe, you’re in luck; that’s all the cutting required! Not so bad, now was it?
- What’s great about using acorn squash is that half a squash + stuffing is the perfect portion for one person. Ergo, one whole squash = a 2-person serving. Ergo, it’s easy to keep track of multiplying this recipe, should you want to make it for multiple people!
- Popping a few cloves of garlic in the “bowls”, and then placing the acorn squash halves cut-side down on the baking dish will allow the garlic to infuse the flesh of the squash while it roasts. (Bonus: you can reuse the garlic by adding it later to the stuffing)
- Acorn squash has the perfect centre to fit tons of delectable stuffing. You can, of course, use any assortment of ingredients, combinations of vegetables, grains, and meat, but mine features sage, barley, and ground turkey.
- The time it takes for the acorn squash to roast is ample to prepare the stuffing!
- If the “bowl” of each squash half is too small to fit an adequate amount of the stuffing, scoop out some of the cooked centre and add it to the stuffing (I use an ice cream scoop to do this). The cooked squash will add rich, creamy, roasted garlic flavour to the stuffing.
- Similar to my Zucchini Boat recipe, I have stuffed this squash. Unlike my Zucchini Boat recipe, however, you should probably avoid eating the exterior, given its toughness and overall inedible nature…
- Serve this alongside a salad and a glass of that white wine you used in the stuffing, and pat yourself on the back for creating such a delicious autumnal meal!
That should be a comprehensive account of this dish! And now, onto the recipe:
- 1 acorn squash, cut crosswise and seeded
- Olive oil
- A hint of salt and pepper
- 2-4 cloves garlic, smashed
- Olive oil
- ½ c. pearl barley, cooked
- 1 small or ½ a medium red onion, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 2 tsp. ground sage
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 c. dry white wine
- Preheat the oven to 425°.
- On a steady surface, using a heavy-duty chef's knife, cut the acorn squash in half crosswise. Start by making an incision at the top, near the stem, and follow the seam of one of the squash's ridges. Scoop out the seeds.
- Place 1-2 cloves of smashed garlic into each of the squash halves' "bowls" and place cut side-down on a baking dish. Rub the exterior with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast for about 20-25 minutes, until the flesh is tender.
- In the meantime, prepare the stuffing. Start by cooking the barley according to package directions. It should take roughly the same amount of time as it takes to roast the squash.
- In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery, and sauté for 5-8 minutes, until translucent.
- Push the onions and celery to edges of the skillet and add the ground turkey to the centre. Break up the turkey using a wooden spoon and cook until browned, about 8 minutes.
- Once browned, season with ground sage, salt, and pepper, and deglaze the pan with the white wine.
- Remove the roasted squash from oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes.
- Transfer cooked barley to the skillet and combine. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
- If the "bowl" of the acorn squash isn't large enough to fit a decent amount of stuffing, use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the flesh and add it to the stuffing. Give it a good mix, so that the squash almost melts into the stuffing.
- Fill the acorn squash bowls with the desired amount of stuffing, and serve!