Recipes and Tips for Healthier Living and Smarter Budgeting

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Acorn Squash Bowls

When we received several acorn squashes in our Bountiful Baskets a couple weeks ago, I started exploring recipes online to figure out something new to do with them. This recipe from theKitchn (called Sara's Italian Sweet and Savory Squash Bowls there) sounded absolutely amazing, so I gave it a try. (I'm still not sure why it's considered a quick recipe, but I guess if I were used to making it I could whip it up faster.) The kids' reviews were mixed, but the adults thought these squash bowls were delightful. As my dad put it, "This recipe is a keeper!" (My modifications are indicated in italics and parenthesis.)

Acorn Squash Bowls

2 small to medium acorn squash (the halves should be the size of a small bowl)

16 oz. Italian turkey or other sausage
1-2 Tb. olive oil (divided)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (I sprinkled a dash or two of ground red pepper instead)
1/2 tsp. Italian herb mix (dried oregano, thyme, basil, parsley - use fresh if you have it!)
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, chopped (I just sauteed diced red peppers with the garlic and onion)
1/4 c. reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes or roasted tomatoes, chopped (I used some home-dried garden tomatoes)
1/2 c. drained canned or jarred artichoke hearts, chopped
2 c. fresh baby spinach
1/4 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons (I sprinkled some dried basil on, as I didn't have fresh)
Salt and pepper as needed

Fresh whole wheat bread crumbs (see below-trust me it's worth it!)
Kosher or sea salt
4 Tb. water
4 pinches of black pepper
1/2 c. hard cheese such as parmesan or pecorino cheese, finely grated

Fresh bread crumbs:
Toast 2 slices of whole wheat bread in toaster until deep brown, chop into fine bread crumbs (it should be easy if toast is very crispy) fry in 1/2 Tb. of olive oil. Toss with big pinch of salt and set aside.

Wash, halve, and scrape the inside of squash. Place the squash in a microwave safe shallow dish with a little water (about half an inch deep). Microwave on high for 7-10 minutes or until tender. Leave in microwave until ready to use. (I was cooking 3Xs the recipe amount, to feed 10 people, so I cooked squash in oven instead by placing halves on cookie sheets with 1/4-1/2 inch of water on bottom of pan. That worked really well, I just had to plan for a half hour or so of cooking time.)

In a large saute pan fry crumbled sausage, olive oil, onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and dry herbs on medium heat. When sausage is almost cooked through add chopped roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. Cook all until sausage is cooked through. Add 1/4 c. water if it seems dry. (Mine didn't have this problem.) Add spinach and toss gently until spinach is wilted. Toss in fresh basil (or sprinkle with dried). Taste for seasoning and salt as needed. Remove from heat.

Place squash halves on a lightly greased cookie sheet. (I kept water on mine and didn't have to grease them.) Mound the filling into squash halves and sprinkle with a pinch of black pepper. Add 1 Tb. water to each squash. (Unnecessary with my method.) Coat the filled squash with fresh breadcrumbs and sprinkle with thick layer of grated cheese.

Broil just until cheese is lightly browned. Enjoy!

Note: I didn't think leftovers were nearly as good as fresh from the oven, so try to make only as much as you need for one meal.

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