Editor’s note: Kayleigh, who is expecting a baby this month, is on family leave. We are reprinting some of our favorite “In the Kitchen” columns while she is on leave. This one was originally published on Oct. 25, 2014.
Preparing for winter can be hard, especially in a place like New York. Keeping your body in good health, trying not to overdose on holiday sweets (like pumpkin cookies) and transitioning from one season to the next in the kitchen are just a few challenges of the fall season.
I love to try new things and I have always wanted to do more with squash. Considering the abundance of squashes that come with the fall harvest here on Long Island, varieties can be limitless. The most popular squashes are butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti and acorn, though there are many more varieties, so it can be hard to choose.
Personally, I’ve always been very fond of acorn squash. But rather than coating them in brown sugar and baking them, like I usually do, I wanted to try something more fulfilling and not so glutinous.
After doing a bit of research, I decided to go for the full-meal-stuffed-into-a-squash deal — something I’d never done before!
I set out to make the perfect recipe for what I was craving. A protein would be necessary. A starch would be nice too. More vegetables would just be an added bonus!
The local acorn squash I had been scoping out seemed to be very decent in size and I couldn’t help but think what a perfect meal this could really become.
Ground turkey just seemed to be the way to go for me but any ground meat will work just fine (beef, pork, veal or even lamb). Then, for the filler, I used plain white rice – again feel free to switch it up: a wild or brown rice can work just as well, perhaps even better. Lastly, I decided on chopped spinach to add color, texture and, of course, strength to my dish.
My husband found my creation a little strange – why on earth would anyone stuff their entire dinner into an acorn squash? Good question. But the real question is, why wouldn’t you?
Combining a great savory profile and stuffing it into a sweet and tender acorn squash can give you the best of both worlds in one dish.
This fall harvest dish is perfect for serving dinner guests or just a dinner for two on a chilly night in.
Acorn squash stuffed with turkey and spinach
- 3 acorn squash, medium size
- 1 C. sweet onion, small dice
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1 10-oz. package frozen spinach, defrosted, squeezed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 C. cooked white rice
- 2 C. chicken stock
- 2 T. butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp. dried sage
- 2 tsp. dried Rosemary
- 1 T. dried thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut each squash lengthwise and remove the seeds. Sprinkle the inside of each squash with salt and pepper. Lay inside face down in a baking dish. Fill the baking dish with about 1 inch of stock. Cover with foil and bak for 30 minutes.
While the squash is roasting cook the filling. In a large skillet heat the olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the onion until it starts to soften. Add the garlic. After you begin to smell the garlic, add the ground turkey, dried herbs and salt and pepper. Sauté until the ground turkey is no longer pink. Stir in the chopped spinach. Remove from heat. Stir in the 2 cups of cooked rice. Season to taste.
After 30 minutes remove the squash from the oven. Very carefully take the squash out of the baking dish and turn flesh side up. Divide the 2 tablespoons of butter into six pats and place one inside of each squash. Pack each squash with the filling. Place back into the baking dish with the stock juices. Pour about 1-2 tablespoons of remaining stock on top of each stuffed squash. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper and bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
Kayleigh Van Vliet Baig was born and raised in Riverhead, where she lives with her husband Tahir and their two dogs.
Kayleigh is in her third season as Sous Chef at a private kitchen in Southampton. Not only is she second in command but her main focus is on creating, preparing and executing cold dishes such as salads, hors d’œuvres, appetizers, canapés, pâtés and terrines. Kayleigh has been in the culinary industry for the last 15 years, working her way up in kitchens on the East End. She also is a personal chef.
Look for In the Kitchen with Kayleigh every Saturday on RiverheadLOCAL.com.
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