Posts Tagged ‘Acorn squash’

© Dina Avila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

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I woke up this morning with giant snowflakes falling from the sky. Sadly, they’ve ended their descent, but it’s still a cozy winter’s day and what better way to warm up your belly than with squash topped shepherd’s pie. This recipe is a riff on your traditional shepherd’s pie. I pulled it out of one my favorite cookbooks that somehow has worked it’s way to the bottom of the stack of cookbooks in our kitchen and left seemingly forgotten. I’m so glad I’ve rediscovered it because it is a gem of a book. If you don’t have Louisa Shafia’s Lucid Food in your collection, I suggest you pick it up soon. It’s lined with an abundance of healthy and inspiring seasonal recipes with mediterranean twist. Right up my alley.

I made this dish last night and it was a hit. Rustic, hearty, but tweaked just enough from your original version of shepherd’s pie so you don’t feel heavy from a meat and potato coma. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but I think we’re all still feeling a little gloopy from the holidays. What better way to counter that then with a healthy and seasonal meal.



Mediterranean Shepherd’s Pie with Gremolata

Adapted from Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia

I bought a bulb of fennel to slice and add to this dish. Sadly, it was overlooked and left in the crisper.
I think it would have made a wonderful addition to the meal. If adding fennel sounds good to you, I say go for it.


Two acorn squash

Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 cups fresh arugula, roughly torn

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 can chickpeas, rinsed well

1 cup of walnuts, pulsed in your food processor until coarse

4 anchovy filets, minced

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup bread crumbs

For the Gremolata:

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley

Zest from one lemon


Warm your oven to 400°F

Half your squash and brush with olive oil. Dust with salt and pepper, place on baking sheet and bake for about 50 minutes. Until soft when poked with a fork.

Let squash cool then scoop the meat into your food processor and purée until smooth. Set aside.

Warm a large pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

Add the onion and sauté until soft.

Add the arugula and cook for about two minutes.

Stir in the garlic, chickpeas, walnuts and anchovies.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes.

Pour the chickpea mixture into a 10-inch pie dish. A casserole or Pyrex would work great, as well.

Using a spatula, spread the squash purée evenly over the top of the chickpeas.

Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the squash and then drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Place the pie in your 400° oven and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Just until the bread crumbs brown.

Serve with the gremolata on the side for dusting.


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I really need a butcher knife. Instead, I have a very old chef’s knife that has been sharpened to death and, although faithful, it is not a knife conducive to cutting hard and difficult foods like squash. I’m really glad Adam wasn’t around to witness me trying to hack acorn squashes in half.  Not surprisingly, I managed to not mangle two halves of said squash. The other two halves, well, not very photogenic. Yes, I know. Someone who cooks as much as I do should have a good knife. A really good knife. Maybe even two. I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right one. It has to feel right, maybe even perfect, in my hand. Mind you, I think about knives all the time. I’ve had Wusthof’s in the back of my mind for months now, but still am not sure. I suppose I should buy one before I have no hands to cook with. It might be time to hit Sur la Tables knife sale.

However, I forgave my knife its incompetency (it’s not the knifes fault, after all) when I took my first bite of this dish. I’m really not a fan of internet acronyms, but OMG. It stopped me in my tracks.  I found this recipe on Saveur who linked it from The Bitten Word who borrowed it from Martha Stewart. Taking their advice, I upped the amount of spices Martha used which metamorphosed this recipe from sort of a Moroccan dish to an intensely delicious Moroccan dish. This is the kind of meal you make when you plan on feeding friends. It is meant to be shared.

I changed a few items from the original recipe. Instead of golden raisins, which are hard to find not treated with sulfites, I used currants. I’m glad I did. The currants softly complemented the sweetness of the squash. I think the raisins may have offered too big of burst of sweet.  I replaced the ground beef with bison because, well, I love bison. I also added shaved fennel mostly because it seemed like a nice touch.

This dish is definitely adaptable. As I was cooking it, my mind danced with the possibilities. Toasted walnuts, quinoa, chopped apricots, cilantro, wild rice. Let your imagination run and cooking intuition take over.

That’s what it’s all about anyway, right?


Stuffed Moroccan Acorn Squash

What you’ll need~

2 medium acorn squash halved and bottoms shaved so they can sit flat in your dish

Olive oil

3/4-pounds ground bison

1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Or to taste.

1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Or to taste.

2+ teaspoons coarse salt

4 cloves minced garlic

1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

3/4-cup bulgur

2 cups water

1/4 cups currants

1/4 chopped Italian parsley

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Half of one fennel, shaved

Preheat oven to 400 and place squash cut side down in a large Pyrex or casserole dish.  Bake for about 30-45 minutes, until tender.

While your squash is baking, warm oil over medium heat in a heavy 4-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add ground bison, cinnamon, nutmeg and a teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently until bison is browned and cooked through. Keep in mind that bison is naturally very lean and over cooks easily. You only need to cook it for about 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer cooked bison to a bowl. Be sure to let the juices drip through the spoon and remain in your pot.

Add onion and cook until it begins to soften and become translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.

Stir in bulgur and remaining salt.

Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat, and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes until the water is absorbed. Remove pot from stove and let sit covered for about 5 minutes.

Fluff bulgur with a fork and add bison, currants, parsley, shaved fennel and pine nuts.

Scrap out the cooked squash leaving about a 1/4 inch around the rims. Stir scraped out bits into the bulgur and spoon in to squash halves.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until tops are browned.

Serve warm and prepared to be wowed.

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