Stuffed Acorn Squash

I really enjoy the changing seasons because they seem to give me an incentive to change up my menus. Each season brings its own specialties from the garden. So many of the dishes that are popular during the fall and winter are based on combinations of produce that we can store for long periods of time such as potatoes and, one of my favorites, winter squash. There are several varieties of these thick skinned squash to choose from – acorn, butternut and buttercups to name a few.

If you are growing winter squash in your garden, wait until the fruit has matured to harvest. You should be able to press into the skin with your fingernail and not leave an indention. Select fruits that are blemish free and firm. Gently remove any dirt and set the squash in a warm, sunny location to cure. It usually takes just a few days for the skin to harden and any scratches to seal.

If stored correctly, many varieties of winter squash can last for several months. Acorn squash will keep through Thanksgiving, while butternut can be expected to last all winter. For the best results select an area to store your winter squash that stays cool and dark like a cellar or pantry. Line your shelves or tabletop with newspaper and place the squash on the paper with about 2 inches breathing room between each one. It is a good idea to check on them every week or two to make sure that none are going bad. Those that are blemish free to begin with will last the longest.

In addition to being tasty and long lasting, winter squash qualify as health food. They are loaded with iron, riboflavin and vitamins A and C. In fact, winter squash have more of these than their summer cousins like yellow crookneck and zucchini squash.

This stuffed acorn squash dish combines fall flavors with those last tomatoes of summer and the way the honey caramelizes with the squash takes the flavor right off the charts. It is adapted from a recipe that I found in an old Kitchen Garden magazine written by chef and author Kathy Gunst. If you enjoy this recipe I recommend picking up her latest book, Stonewall Kitchen Harvest, which she co-authored with Jonathan King and Jim Stott, owners and founders of the Stonewall Kitchens in Maine.

    Ingredients

    • 2 small acorn squash
    • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
    • 4 Roma tomatoes coarsely chopped
    • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 cup dry white wine
    • 4 tablespoons honey
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Instructions

    1. The original recipe uses butternut squash, but I tried it with acorn squash because I like the nutty flavor. What I learned is to select small acorn squash rather than large ones. I found that the cavity is too deep with a large squash to sufficiently melt the cheese and roast the tomatoes.
    2. To begin, split the squash in half and remove seeds and strings. I also slice a thin piece off the round bottom to create a flat surface so the squash will sit upright.
    3. Place the squash in a shallow baking dish and sprinkle each half with salt and pepper and just a tad of the sage.
    4. Layer the bottom of the cavities of the squash with tomatoes, just a thin layer. You'll add the bulk of the tomatoes later.
    5. Divide the cheese between the four squash and place on top of the tomatoes.
    6. Put 2 tablespoons of wine into each squash and then add the remaining tomatoes. I found that I needed about 1 medium sized Roma tomato per squash half.
    7. Top the tomatoes with the remaining sage and add more salt and pepper to taste.
    8. Pour the rest of your wine into the bottom of the baking dish with the squash and place the baking dish into a preheated 400 degree F oven.
    9. Bake the squash for 1 hour, basting occasionally and checking to be sure that the liquid has not cooked away. If this happens you can either add more wine or even water.
    10. After an hour the squash should be tender enough to pierce with a fork, much like a baked potato.
    11. Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle each squash half with 1 tbs. honey and dot with about 1/2 tablespoon of butter.
    12. Return the dish to the oven and bake for another 5 minutes until the butter melts and the honey caramelizes. Serve hot.
    13. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can easily make more or less to suit your needs.