Thursday’s Dish: Stuffed Acorn Squash

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only a week away? Thanksgiving is a holiday for family, friends and counting our blessings… and food, of course. With limited time left to plan, I’m here to save the day if you’re expecting a vegetarian guest, if you’re looking for a creative side dish or even if you just want to mix it up a little bit and ditch the turkey in favor of a non-traditional main course.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

As a vegetarian, the main dish isn’t exactly a given for me on Thanksgiving, so I have to get a little creative. A couple of years ago, I threw together a stuffed winter squash that was absolutely delicious. I keep returning to this recipe, or some variation on it, for holiday meals. The building blocks are simple — winter squash stuffed with a quinoa mixture and topped with cheese — but there are pretty much infinite variations to suit your tastes, the tastes of your guests or just what you have on hand.

Although this makes a flashy vegetarian main, there is no need to wait until Thanksgiving or Christmas to bust it out. It also doubles as a great weeknight meal, since it’s quick and easy to throw together. Bon appétit!

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Makes 4 servings

2 large acorn squash
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cremini (or other) mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp cream
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 1/2 cups shredded smoked mozzarella
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Halve each squash and scoop out the seeds. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each half, so that it’s stable when you flip it over. Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish filled with out 1/2-inch of water and bake for 30 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, combine the quinoa and vegetable stock or water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook covered for about 10 minutes, or until the grain spirals out, and then remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for at least 5 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they give off their juices, then sprinkle with the thyme.

Stir the mushroom and onion mixture into the cooked quinoa. Add the cream and 1 cup of the smoked mozzarella and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff the acron squash halves with the quinoa mixture and top with the remaining smoked mozzarella. Place under the broiler until the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.

Lauren Walz is a freelance writer and editor and mama to a two-year-old girl. While she’s quick to brag about being a fifth-generation Texan, Lauren moved to Northern California in 2004 after graduating from UT Law and lived in the Silicon Valley area until this spring, when she and her family were drawn back to Austin. Lauren is busy getting re-acquainted with her old stomping grounds and is astonished by how the food and wine scene has changed in Austin in the past 8 years. Lauren also blogs about cooking and parenthood on gourmetveggiemama.com.