Stuffed Butternut Squash

This dish can be served as a side or as a main dish.  It’s a great vegetarian option for a Holiday Dinner because of the flavors and seasonality of the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Butternut Squash (I prefer smaller, round squashes)
  • 8oz. 0f Bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 6-8oz. Fresh Spinach or Seasonal Greens* (chopped)
  • 4oz. mushroom* (diced)
  • 2oz. of sweet peppers*
  • 1/4 cup of Flat-leafed Parsley*
  • 8oz. extra-firm Tofu* (optional)
  • Lemon (or 1 Tbsp. lemon juice)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (softened)
  • Olive Oil
  • Spices:
    • Sage,
    • Rosemary
    • Salt & Pepper to taste

*These ingredients should be organic whenever possible

Mise en place~

Before you begin, it makes sense to complete your mise en place— this makes assembling the dish much easier.

  1. Turn on oven and pre-heat to 450ºF
  2. Dice bread, then spread out on dry backing sheet.  Put into oven while you wait for it to pre-heat.  The bread should toast until dry (but not crumbling).
  3. Dice onion (preferably white) and then rinse in cool water; set aside.
  4. Mince garlic cloves; set aside.
  5. Rinse and dice sweet peppers; set aside.
  6. Rinse, dry, and chop Spinach (or whatever seasonal green you like/have on hand); set aside.
  7. Clean mushrooms by wiping down with a clean towel.  Chop them to roughly about the same size; set aside.
  8. Rinse, peel, and scoop out butternut squash– be sure to keep the squash intact, and also to cut the bottom off so that the squash is flat enough to bake “sitting up”. (If you want to take the time, you could save the seeds that are scooped out during the cleaning process; rinse, salt to taste, and toast until yummy!).  Once cleaned, oil the squash inside and out with olive oil; set aside in roasting pan.
  9. Be sure to check on your bread in the oven– you don’t want to overly toast or burn it.  (This is a great way to use up any stale bread you might have in your fridge.)
  10. In a bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs, softened butter and  1/4 Cup of milk.  Add salt, pepper, sage and rosemary to your taste/liking.

Now comes the fun part!

Directions:

  1. Let toasted bread cool to room temperature.  Once cooled, add them to the egg mixture.
  2. To the bowl, add the rest of the mise en place vegetables and juice of 1/2 of a lemon.
  3. Mix ingredients together until ingredients are uniformly dispersed.
  4. At this point, if you have decided to include tofu in your recipe, this would be a good time to gently fold it into the mixture.
  5. Once finished, stuff the dressing into the empty cavity of the squash. (If there’s not enough room inside the squash, you can always oil some ramekins and bake the dressing separately, covering ramekin with foil.)
  6. Once stuffed, return squash to “sitting position” in roasting pan, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper (It should stick because the squash was oiled during prep.), cover pan loosely with foil
  7. Bake at 450ºF for 30 minutes.
  8. Then, uncover the squash and reduce heat to 400ºF
  9. Bake for another 20 minute (or, until the butternut squash is well-roasted– you should be able to easily puncture the squash with a fork).
  10. When squash is done, take it out of the oven, and let it rest for a good 10-15 minutes.
  11. Once it has cooled a bit, turn squash over onto it’s side and carve horizontally.

Once plated, you can sprinkle a few of the toasted seeds (if you so choose to save them) and/or a little bit of finely, freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Enjoy!

You gotta eat your spinach, baby!

Spinach? Seriously? YES!  This isn’t your mom’s over-nuked limp mound of tasteless stringy mush.  No sir, it’s so much more.  At least, it has the potential to be so much more.

Spinach is simply one of the tastiest and more versatile greens there are.  Few greens can be served raw or cooked and be enjoyable both ways.  While there are a few recipes for cooked/grilled lettuce, they’re just not that prevalent (for a reason, I say).  Other greens: mustard, collard, etc. can just be down-right bitter, and you wouldn’t dare serve them raw.  Not so with spinach.

First, it’s an instant salad.  Grab a handful and toss with your favorite dressing.  Or, you can get creative.  Add bacon, walnuts, goat cheese, and toss with a warm cherry vinaigrette that just barely wilts the leaves, and you’ve got a tasty treat.

Second, it’s an instant veggie to go into practically any soup or sauce you make.  I put it into my black-eyed peas with rice to add some color, flavor and vitamin D.  You can throw it into your favorite marinara sauce before you ladle it onto your pasta.  (For that matter, you can try ladling your favorite sauce over a bowl of hot pasta and fresh spinach– or JUST a bed of spinach if you’re watching carbs.  Really.)  You can throw it into a batch of navratan korma or even pad thai.  The possibilities are endless!

Third, it really can be wonderful cooked and served beside a steak, a fish filet, a piece of grilled tempeh or tofu.  But, you have to learn how to cook it.  It doesn’t take much heat at all.  Try this:

  • Start with a couple of tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a pan (remember to start with a cold pan.  throwing olive oil into a hot pan can easily burn it.  if you burn the oil, best to throw it out, wipe down the pan and start fresh.)
  • Throw in a bit of chopped, minced or sliced garlic– whatever your preference.
  • Once the oil is hot and the garlic has just begun to sizzle, throw in a pinch of salt (I prefer Kosher salt), stir a few times, and then turn off the heat.
  • If you didn’t hear me before– turn off the heat
  • Throw some freshly washed and dried spinach into the pan, and using either tongs or two forks, simply turn the mound of spinach over and over, coating the leaves in the hot oil.  The residual heat from the pan and the heat of the oil is enough to cook the leaves.
  • Serve soon.  Don’t let the leaves stay in the pan– they will turn to mush.  If you’re not ready to eat them right away, at least put them on a plate away from the heat until you’re ready to serve.
  • Crack some black pepper and maybe a squirt of lemon juice, and you’re ready to munch on some tasty goodness.

You gotta eat your spinach

baby,
that’s the only thing to do.
It’ll keep you kinda healthy too,
and what it did for Popeye,
it’ll do for you,
you gotta eat your spinach,

baby,

it’ll keep you nice and strong,

and the stronger you are,

the longer you’ll live,

and the longer I’ll have to love you.

From the song sung by Shirley Temple