Autumn Weather Brings Squash Dinner

Hello 4D supporters and foodies alike!  I have been working on various projects but I did not want October to end with out sharing a new recipe, hooray!  Autumn is easily my favorite time of year for many reasons including, but not limited, to Iliza Schlesinger’s bit on Fall in her Freezing Hot special on Netflix.  For starters, sweater weather means I get to wear my favorite navy blue cardigan once I leave the kitchen for the day and while I am in the kitchen I get to work with the best harvest of the year in my humble opinion.  That’s right folks, it’s time for squash everything.

Squash of course goes beyond pumpkins and it is no secret that this is one of the most important crops for Native Americans.  For those of you who do not know, “Three Sisters” refers to our crop trifecta of squash, beans and corn.  There are variations on the creation story from tribe to tribe but I encourage you to read the Oneida’s story.  Oneida was the first nation I visited when I began my path as a Native chef.  The people who shared their stories, knowledge and offered their help will always hold a special place with me, particularly my late friend Jeff Metoxen.

In terms of farming, there is an advantage to growing these three crops together.  When planted together, often called companion planting, the corn stalk provides structure for which the beans climb up eliminating the need to purchase or make poles.  Squash grows in a sprawling manner over the ground blocking the sun which reduces the growth of weeds.  Our ancestors were very intelligent and in tune with the natural world.

Now that you have a little back story and some fun information I’ll get to the recipe.  I eat just about anything so I did use ground turkey for this original recipe.  For those of you who do not eat animal protein but do not want to lose out on protein, quinoa is an easy substitute.  It is one of the most prominent ancient grains to the people of the Andes Mountains and is very high in protein making it an excellent ingredient for vegetarians and vegans.  When I want to lighten up my diet I utilize quinoa and don’t miss the meat at all.  I encourage you to not only try this recipe but maybe even email me and tell me how it worked out for you.

An Apetite For Memory mini series will resume in November with a few special holiday stories.  Until then I hope you all continue, or maybe even start, cooking and enjoy your own journey through food.

~Buen Provecho

Calabazas Rellenas aka Stuffed Squash

Ground turkey                                               1#

Vegetable stock                                              1 C

Yellow onion, diced                                       8oz (1 medium)

Garlic, minced                                                3 cloves

Jalapeño, minced                                           1 each

Red bell pepper, seeded, diced                   6oz (1 large)

Red kale, spines removed, ribbon cut      4oz (1/2 bunch)

Crimini mushroom, stemmed, sliced       8oz

Sea salt                                                            to taste

Fresh ground black pepper                        to taste

Ground cumin                                              2 tsp

Arbol chili powder                                       1Tbsp

Mexican oregano                                          1Tbsp

Sunflower or olive oil                                 6Tbsp – divided use

Acorn squash                                               2 each

Method:

  1. Start preheating the oven to 350 degrees.  Heat 2 tablespoons of oil of your choice in a 10” pan or larger. Season the turkey with cumin, chili powder, oregano, sea salt and brown over high heat.  Once browned, add the stock and simmer over medium-low heat.  This will keep the turkey moist and flavorful.  Once the stock is absorbed, set aside.
  2. Heat 2 more tablespoons of oil over medium high heat and sauté onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño and mushrooms.  Once these vegetables have started to soften, about three minutes, add the kale and continue to cook another two minutes.  Lightly season with sea salt.
  3. Combine the vegetables with turkey at this point and start to prepare the squash.  Cut off a very little bit of the top and bottom of the acorn squash, or another varietal of your choosing, to make it level.  Next cut the squash in half horizontally to expose the seeds.  Scoop out the seeds and save them.  You can wash, dry and roast them with whatever seasonings you like for a snack or garnish for your finished dish.

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4. Once you have created a well in the center of the squash halves, rub the insides with another 2 tablespoons of oil and lightly season with sea salt and pepper.  MOUND your turkey vegetable filling into the squash halves.  There will likely be a little extra but when has that ever been a problem?  It just means there is more for taste testing!

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5. Wrap the tops of the squash halves with aluminum foil so that is comes down the sides.  You do not have to wrap it all around to cover the bottom but do grease the sheet pan.  Bake covered in the oven for 80 minutes or until the squash is fork tender.

Substitution Note:

If you are making the vegetarian version, boil one cup of quinoa in two cups of water or vegetable stock.  This should yield a scant two cups once cooked.  Mix in with the sautéed vegetables in step 3.

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