Sunday, January 2, 2011

Baked Squash Stuffed with Brown Rice, Cashews, and Mushrooms

We've talked about this, right? If you've not already started taking serious advantage of the heaps of succulent winter squashes piled in and around your local natural foods store, then I have to infer that you haven't been paying attention. Or that you live in a winter-squash-free zone. Wait. Are there winter-squash-free zones? I hope not. *shudder* Or that you share my beloved sister's unfortunate aversion for all things gourd-like and answering to the name that rhymes with "quash." To her, and those of her ilk, I apologize for this blog entry. It is not for you, gentle squash-haters. And to you I promise that my next blog post will be, like those fictive (I hope) zones I worried about above, entirely squash free.

For my part, I can't resist them. It is always with a bit of sadness that Spring finds me lingering a little mournfully in front of the steadily dwindling piles of winter squash. Maybe the kabochas vanish first, then the red curry, the carnivale, the turban, the hubbard, the delicatta, the acorn (Actually, the acorn can leave whenever it wants. I can't abide by a squash that I'd rather die than peel. Have you seen those things?). Finally, we're left with a small collection of anemic, watery spaghetti squash that aren't worth buying. But there's enough time to mourn what hasn't yet come to pass for the year, now we should eat squash!

The following recipe is a successful version of a stuffed, baked squash that I attempted last winter. On that occasion, I underestimated the needed liquid levels and the baking time, and let me just say that it was...unsuccessful. C, bless his heart, claims not to remember it. But I do. This time it turned out the perfect combination of savory stuffing, meaty mushrooms, toothsome cashews, and sweet squash flesh. I used a baby hubbard, but I think you could use any of the hard skinned varieties. Really, this recipe is more method than anything else. I'll definitely be making something similar before that bittersweet and inevitable day arrives, heralding the arrival of strawberries and the departure of the winter squash.

Baked Squash Stuffed with Brown Rice, Cashews, and Mushrooms

1 medium winter squash

Slice a thin disk off the bottom of the squash to give it a base. This prevents it from rolling around on your baking sheet. Cut the top off, much as you would a jack-o-lantern. You want a large enough hole to easily clean and stuff the squash. Clean out the seeds and stringy fibers and set aside.

1 c uncooked short grain brown rice
2 t unchicken broth paste (or 1 cube)
2 c water

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45-50 minutes until the rice is cooked. While it's cooking, make the rest of the stuffing.

1 medium yellow onion
2 c (about 1/2 lb) sliced crimini mushrooms
sea salt
black pepper
1 c raw cashews

Saute onion until translucent. Add mushrooms and cook until soft. Season as desired, then remove from heat. When the rice is done, add it to the mushrooms, along with the cashews, and stir well.

Preheat oven to 400. Spoon filling into squash, pressing down with your spoon to pack it. Replace the top of the squash and bake for about an hour. The squash is done when a fork can easily pierce the outside shell. A word of caution: Overcooked squash is by far preferable to undercooked. So when in doubt, give it ten more minutes.

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