15 October 2008

Peace, Love, and Winter Vegetables

I'm so happy it finally feels like autumn outside. I love the chilly weather, and I especially love to cook during chilly weather. It's so homey and fun to get the kitchen all warm and smelling good while the grey skies outside make everything feel cosy. Plus, winter vegetables are so delicious!

I spent the entire chilly, grey day yesterday dreaming of using acorn squash and sweet potatoes in my dinner. The nice thing about dreams like that is that it's pretty easy to make them come true. Last night I invented a pretty darn tasty stuffed acorn squash, if I do say so myself, and the basis for it was these absolutely delicious mashers made of a combination of sweet potato and roasted acorn squash. You could easily just serve the mashers as a flavorful, yummy side dish (perfect for Thanksgiving) or use them as the basis of the stuffed squash.

This made two generous servings. If you were using the mashers as a side dish, it would easily serve 4-6. Do yourself a favor and get organic veggies.

Sweet Potato & Acorn Squash Mashers

2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced in medium/small pieces
1 largish acorn squash, halved and deseeded
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
2 heaping Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
~2 tsp. rosemary
salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat the cut sides of the acorn squash with olive oil and place them face down on a nonstick cookie sheet. Put the sheet in the oven.

To prepare the sweet potatoes, I recommend a good steamer that sits above your pan of water, not the kind that you insert in the bottom of the saucepan. Bring several inches of water to boil and steam the sweet potatoes for about 25 minutes or until tender. This is also about how long it'll take your acorn squash to roast.

If your sweet potatoes are done before the squash, go ahead and mash them with half the brown sugar, butter & spices while they're hot, then scoop out the squash (try to leave about an inch or so of flesh in the shell, if you're making stuffed squash) and mash it in with the sweet potatoes and the rest of the sugar, butter & spices. Taste & add more salt & pepper as needed.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Additional Ingredients:
2-3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup diced walnuts
2-3 cloves minced garlic
~ 1 Tbs. fresh minced ginger
1/2 medium white onion, diced
1 large or 2 medium white mushrooms, halved and sliced
1 - 1 1/2 c broccoli, chopped into tiny florets
~ 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
~ 1 tsp. smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
pinch of fenugreek seed (about 1/4 tsp) (if you don't have it, don't stress; the recipe will still taste good)
~ 1 tsp. oregano
salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

Follow the instructions for the sweet potato & acorn squash mashers above, but when you've got about 17 minutes left on the timer for the steaming/roasting veggies, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat (or a little less than medium). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the onion, crushed red pepper, paprika, and fenugreek seed and cook another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Lightly toast the walnuts for about four minutes in the toaster oven, then add those to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring often. When there are about 5 minutes left on the timer, add the mushrooms, oregano, salt & pepper; mix thoroughly and let sit, making sure your pan isn't too hot, and stirring occasionally.

As soon as your timer's gone off and you've mashed up the sweet potatoes, put the broccoli in the steamer and let steam for 3-5 minutes, depending on your texture preference. While it's steaming, finish the mashers and spoon the mashed potato/squash mixture back into the squash shells as the bottom layer of the stuffed squash. The mashers should fill up the squash shells to about half an inch from the top, and you should have some left over. Next, spoon the steamed broccoli on top of the mashers in a mound, then pour the walnut-mushroom mixture over top. You should have some of the walnut-mushroom mixture left over too (and/or spillage onto the plate seems inevitable); spoon the rest of the mashers onto the plate too, and top with any remaining walnut-mushroom mixture. It makes for a pretty presentation, and like I said, it's a nice hearty winter meal.