The Recipe: Acorn squash stuffed with protein-rich nutty-tasting quinoa [pronounced KEEN-wah], slightly sweet with dried cherries or cranberries, maple syrup and fall spices. A great choice for Meatless Monday during the fall. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real.
The Conversation: What, exactly, is "tepid water"? And what in heavens does it have in common with quinoa?!
"... to die for ... my family's first experience with quinoa, and they raved ..." ~ Anonymous
Late on a Friday, shoppers trolled the aisles in a nearby grocery whose shelves are lined with hard-to-find international ingredients as coveted by gourmet cooks as appreciated by immigrants longing for familiar tastes of home.
One shopper studied his list, peered at labels, checked the list again. An observant grocery manager asked to help, thought for a moment but shook his head. “Naw, we don’t carry that.”
Then his face brightened. “Whole Foods!” he said, naming the upscale organic market some miles away. “They’ll have it for sure.”
Curious, I approached. What hard-to-find item was the shopper hunting? He consulted the list again, then carefully enunciated, “Tepid water.”
Is quinoa as unfamiliar to you as tepid water was to the puzzled shopper? Change that with this week’s squash. It’s stuffed with the nutty-flavored, high-protein, quick-cooking grain that’s pronounced, carefully now, KEEN-wah.
As for that tepid water, what is tepid water, you ask? Here's the thing. Tepid water is plain warm water, straight from the tap. Really, that's it! Bread recipes often specify water temperature, to promote yeast growth.
ACORN SQUASH with QUINOA & CHERRIES
Time-to-table: 1 hour
- 2 small acorn squash, washed
- Olive oil
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup quinoa, preferably white, rinsed well
- 1/4 cup dried tart cherries or dried cranberries, preferably halved
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, preferably toasted or Maple-Glazed Pecans
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon melted butter (or vegan butter)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
GIVE THE ACORN SQUASH A HEAD START Heat oven to 400F/200C. Cut squash in half lengthwise, that's "pole to pole" or "stem to stern" and definitely not cross-wise. (Why? To avoid the wobbly stem and tip, also to make two almost-equal halves!) Use a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds and "gunk," toss these in the compost bowl or wash the seeds to make Spicy Sweet Pumpkin Seeds. With your hands, rub the skins and the cut edges with oil. Place squash face-down on a baking dish, preferably one with sides as high as the squash halves, and bake for 30 minutes.
COOK QUINOA Meanwhile, bring the water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa, cover and return to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, cook until the quinoa puffs up and becomes tender, about 15 – 20 minutes, the liquid should cook away at about the same time, if not, add more hot water as needed.
MIX & MOUND THE STUFFING Once the quinoa is cooked, stir in the fruit, nuts, maple syrup, butter and cinnamon. Mound the quinoa mixture in the four squash halves.
FINISH BAKING Cover with foil and bake for another 15 minutes.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS If you like, bake the squash early in the day, then reheat in a 350F/180C oven for about 30 minutes. So convenient!
Three details here, things I noticed or learned "too late", oops.
CUTTING THE SQUASH Do cut the acorn squash lengthwise, through (or just beside) the stem. That avoids the awkward tippy squash you see in this old photo. It also makes for two nearly-equal servings.
WHITE QUINOA The white quinoa makes a much prettier stuffing, it really shows off the cherries and nuts! Taste-wise, there's no difference though so if you have another quinoa on hand, sure, use it. I know many cooks like Trader Joe's tri-color quinoa, a mix of red, black and what Trader Joe's calls "golden" quinoa.
TIMING Ha! Who knew? Acorn squash really do taste better in the fall versus later in the year. Even more importantly? Most supermarket acorn squash can benefit from being stored in your pantry (cool, dry, dark) for a few weeks. Curious? Read more, this NPR story is just fascinating!
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